Overexposure to Radiation: When The Treatment Is Worse Than The Disease

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Overexposure to Radiation When The Treatment Is Worse Than The DiseaseEvery day, each of us is exposed to certain levels of radiation. Radiation is in our air, our food, our water, the ground, and can even be produced by our own bodies.

While low levels of radiation are normal and relatively harmless, many patients with cancers and other diseases are exposed to hundreds of times more radiation than the average healthy person. When the treatments used to diagnose illness or cure cancer are not carefully monitored, excessive radiation can cause burns, sickness, and promote the growth of tumors or additional cancers.

Overexposure in Diagnostics

The development of CT scans and nuclear imaging technologies has revolutionized the way that illnesses are diagnosed. These tests can detect much more than a standard X-ray machine, and have saved thousands of lives.

While the creation of these tests was obviously beneficial for the vast majority of patients, overuse of CT tests and miscalibrated machines have injured hundreds of patients by giving them overdoses of radiation. When a machine malfunctions or a technician makes a mistake, excessive radiation can cause burns, hair loss, and in severe cases, destroy healthy tissues and organs.

Overexposure in Treatments

Radiation treatments provide their most dramatic results when they are purposely used to destroy tissue. While the treatments can be targeted to kill cancer cells or eliminate other abnormal tissues, these treatments can be lifesaving. However, when the patient’s radiation treatments go awry, or when the patient receives much more radiation than was intended, the same treatment which kills cancerous cells can also destroy healthy tissues.

Preventing Overexposure

Radiation treatments and imaging always have the potential for side effects, but this possibility can be minimized with responsible patient care. For example, a CT scan can deliver approximately 450 times the amount of radiation than an X-ray does, making it a test which should be used sparingly if possible. Patients should discuss the possible side effects of repeated scans or imaging tests with their doctors, and should be informed about the risks of overexposure.

Additionally, both the Food and Drug Administration and the state of California have passed laws which regulate radiation emitting machines in an attempt to limit the number of overexposure cases every year. The FDA has established performance standards for the machines, and requires manufacturers to comply with certain safety requirements before these products can be sold.

For its part, California passed the first law of its kind which requires hospitals to report to the state any incident where a patient receives more than 20% of the intended dose of radiation. This law came about after Cedars-Sinai reported that in 2009, 260 patients who underwent CT scans had developed rashes, hair loss, and were at an increased risk of developing cataracts as a result of exposure to excessive radiation.

While these laws and regulations will help to prevent many radiation injuries, mistakes still occur. When a patient is injured by an excessive dose of radiation, that patient may be able to file a personal injury or medical malpractice lawsuit for the injuries that develop.

At the Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq., our attorneys take patient safety seriously. If you believe you were injured by the negligence of a doctor or other health care professional, schedule an appointment today. Our knowledgeable and helpful staff of legal and medical professionals will fight to get you the help you deserve after an injury.

To make an appointment, fill out the contact form online or call (310) 289-2600. Don’t wait to fight for your rights after an injury—call today to get the help you need to heal.

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