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Radiation Safety

Radiology Ltd. is committed to the health of southern Arizonans by protecting patients from unnecessary radiation exposure. Through the use of a variety of simple but effective methods, we have made it our priority to lower the amount of radiation patients receive while maintaining the highest image quality.

With modifications to our CT protocols, Radiology Ltd. has been able to reduce exposure to the harmful radiation associated with X-ray imaging by an average of 40%, without sacrificing the elite level of care we provide to the patients and physicians of our community.

For your convenience we’ve provided the following resources regarding radiation safety and how Radiology Ltd. is continually working to offer the safest, most reliable choice for your imaging needs:

Radiation Safety

What Are X-rays and What Do They Do?

X-rays are forms of radiant energy, like light or radio waves. Unlike light, X-rays can penetrate the body, which allows a radiologist to produce pictures of internal structures. The radiologist can view these on photographic film or on a television or computer monitor.

X-ray examinations provide valuable information about your health and play an important role in helping your doctor make an accurate diagnosis. In some cases X-rays are used to assist with the placement of tubes or other devices in the body or with other therapeutic procedures.

Measuring Radiation Dosage

The scientific unit of measurement for radiation dose, commonly referred to as effective dose, is the millisievert (mSv). Other radiation dose measurement units include rad, rem, roentgen, sievert, and gray. Because different tissues and organs have varying sensitivity to radiation exposure, the actual radiation risk to different parts of the body from an X-ray procedure varies. The term “effective dose” is used when referring to the radiation risk averaged over the entire body.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, most people in the United States receive an annual radiation dose of 360 millirem (a measure of radiation exposure). About 80% of that exposure amount is from natural sources such as soil, rocks, radon gas, human bodies, or plane trips. Diagnostic imaging procedures typically account for only 20% of the average Americans’ yearly exposure.

Radiation Exposure Risks Associated With Common Imaging Procedures

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): An MRI does NOT use X-rays or other ionizing radiation to image patients.

Ultrasound (US): An Ultrasound does NOT use X-rays or other ionizing radiation to image patients.

X-ray: A small dose of radiation is used to perform most X-ray examinations. As an example, the radiation exposure from a typical chest X-ray is comparable to the radiation exposure received during a cross-country plane trip.

Mammogram: A small dose of radiation is used to perform this study – approximately equal to the radioactivity your own body naturally produces each year.

Computed Tomography (CT): A CT scan requires more radiation than conventional X-ray examinations; however, it also provides more detailed pictures. Total radiation exposure varies greatly by CT procedure; a typical chest CT is comparable to the radiation exposure the average American receives from radon gas naturally occurring in their home.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET): Positron Emission Tomography uses small amounts of radioactive isotope-labeled materials which are injected to target the area of the body being imaged. The radiation dose varies by procedure.

Please visit our Imaging Questions and Precautions page for more information on things to discuss with your doctor, radiologist or technician.

According to recent estimates, the average person in the U.S. receives an effective dose of about 3mSv per year from naturally occurring radioactive materials and cosmic radiation from outer space. These natural “background” doses vary throughout the country.

What Is ACR Accreditation?

American College of Radiology (ACR) accreditation is recognized as the gold standard in medical imaging. Patients concerned about radiation safety should seek out facilities that display ACR accreditation seals.

ACR accreditation ensures the highest level of radiation care. It means:

  • The facility has undergone a rigorous review process and meets nationally accepted standards of patient safety and image quality
  • Personnel are well qualified to perform your radiation procedure and interpret your medical images
  • All equipment is assessed by a medical imaging expert who verifies that the equipment functions properly, takes optimal images, and utilizes appropriate radiation dose levels

ACR accreditation demonstrates your doctor’s commitment to quality care and patient safety. For more than three quarters of a century, ACR has devoted its resources to making imaging safe, effective, and accessible to those who need it. ACR is the oldest and most experienced imaging accreditation body and is comprised of physicians, physicists, and experts in radiology technology.

Radiation Safety at Radiology Ltd.

Radiology Ltd.’s Role in Radiation Safety

We have been advocates of radiation safety long before the American College of Radiology (ACR) began its volunteer CT accreditation programs. Radiology Ltd. has instituted protocols in our CT department that reduce patient exposure to the harmful radiation associated with X-ray imaging on average 40 percent, while maintaining an elite level of care.

By using simple but effective methods and by changing the way technologists and radiologists use standard radiation, we have made it our priority to lower the amount of radiation dose while maintaining the highest image quality

How is This Done?

To limit the amount of radiation that patients and staff are exposed to during CT procedures, our imaging facilities made targeted alterations to the use of our CT equipment and software implementation of CareDose 4D. We have revamped the radiation safety training program to increase awareness about radiation safety. All of our changes have been in accordance with recommendations by the ACR. In addition, our imaging equipment receives annual “check-ups” by a radiation physicist to ensure it is operating safely and our images earn the highest approval by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the ACR. Additionally, our technologists are trained to use the “As Low as Reasonably Achievable” (ALARA) imaging technique in radiation doses at all times.

Due to all of this, patients can be assured they are receiving the lowest possible exposure while maintaining the highest quality X-ray imaging.

Who We Work With

Our radiologists use the ACR’s Appropriateness Criteria to determine that the most appropriate imaging examinations have been prescribed. Appropriate usage of examinations that do not require radiation (e.g. MRI or ultrasound examinations) prevents unnecessary patient radiation exposure.

  • Our radiologists are actively involved in the ACR and the American Board of Radiology (ABR) so that we can monitor new trends for reducing radiation exposure and implement new standards and guidelines quickly when needed.

Radiology Ltd. is a member of national medical radiation safety campaigns that are working to lower the amount of radiation used in medically necessary imaging studies and eliminating unnecessary procedures.

  • Our radiologists participate in the The Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging’s “Image Gently”campaign, an initiative to increase awareness of the opportunities to lower radiation doses in the imaging of children.

Radiology Ltd. also participates in “Image Wisely”, an initiative formed by The Joint Task Force on Adult Radiation Protection. Its purpose is to promote radiation safety in adult medical imaging information

Precautions Radiology Ltd. Takes to Avoid Unnecessary Exposure

Radiology Ltd. participates in rigorous quality assurance and patient safety programs, and takes several steps to ensure that our patients receive only the lowest amounts of radiation necessary to obtain high quality diagnostic imaging examinations. These steps include:

  • All of our radiologists are certified by the ABR and have extensive training in techniques that minimize patient radiation exposure.
  • Educational seminars are provided for our technologists including an annual Radiation Safety Program for all clinical and non-clinical staff.
  • Regular site evaluations are conducted and a Safety Committee consisting of radiologists, technologists and site supervisors meets on a quarterly basis.
  • Regular peer-reviews are held to evaluate past imaging cases to see how we can improve.
  • We have been accredited by the ACR since 1995 for adult imaging and 2007 for pediatric imaging, when ACR accreditation became mandatory.
  • Because the advanced imaging equipment at all of our facilities is accredited by the ACR, it means the equipment is regularly inspected and calibrated by medical imaging physicists to ensure that patient radiation exposure is appropriately limited.
  • Our medical imaging technologists are licensed and trained to monitor patient radiation exposure on equipment.
  • The radiation exposure for each CT examination is adjusted based on the size of the individual patient. This allows us to minimize radiation exposure doses for children undergoing examinations.

Radiation Dose to Patients From Common Imaging Examinations