September 29th, 2014

American Heart Association: Pay More Attention to Radiation in Imaging Procedures

The American Heart Association is urging physicians to better understand the risks of radiation in cardiac imaging procedures. When ordering these procedures physicians should understand the appropriate use of each procedure, the radiation dose associated with the procedure, and the risks associated with that dose. Both the risks and benefits should be fully explained and discussed with patients prior to the imaging procedure.

The full importance of radiation from cardiac procedures is not always appreciated, write the authors of the newly published scientific statement, “Approaches to Enhancing Radiation Safety in Cardiovascular Imaging.” But, according to Reza Fazel, the chair of the writing committee, “heart imaging procedures account for almost 40 percent of the radiation exposure from medical imaging.” The role of radiation is particularly important when considering cardiovascular imaging in younger patients for whom the lifetime risk is likely higher, said Fazel.

The statement urges physicians to discuss several important questions with their patients, including how the procedure will be used to diagnose and treat the patient’s heart problem, whether there are other available techniques that don’t use radiation, how much radiation the patient will receive, and what is known about the risk of cancer associated with the radiation dose.

Fazel offered some overall reassurance: “In general, the radiation-related risk of any imaging test to an individual patient is very small and, when the test is clinically appropriate, the benefits of the test typically far outweigh any potential risks.”



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