Radiation safety: What you should know

Imaging exams save millions of lives each year and contribute to longer life expectancies and declining death rates, according to the American College of Radiology (ACR). Community Hospital radiologists are committed to the responsible use of radiation to continue bringing these benefits to patients. 

When your doctor decides that an imaging study is needed to guide decisions about your care, Dr. Anthony Filly, a board-certified radiologist at Community Hospital, suggests asking these questions to help assess the safety and quality of the hospital or medical center where the imaging exams are to be done:

  • Dr. Anthony Filly

    Dr. Filly on KION TV

    Radiologist Anthony Filly talks about radiation safety measures being taken by Community Hospital in an interview with KION news.

    Watch video.

    Does the hospital or imaging center participate in the ACR’s National Dose Registry Project, which compares data regionally and nationally to improve the quality of patient care, and can it demonstrate that its radiation doses compare favorably to others’?
  • Has it joined the ACR’s Image Gently™ and Image Wisely campaigns, which raise awareness of opportunities to eliminate unnecessary imaging examinations and to lower radiation in necessary imaging examinations to only that needed to acquire appropriate images?
  • Once an exam has been scheduled, is a radiologist available to answer questions about radiation dose?
  • Does the facility use bismuth shields to protect the breasts and thyroid during CT scans? The shields provide reductions in radiation exposure  - up to a 57 percent reduction for breasts - without significant changes in image quality.
  • Are the CT scanners equipped with current dose-reduction functions?

At Community Hospital, the answer to each of those questions is yes.

Filly also recommends asking what actions the hospital or center has taken to reduce radiation dose from CT scans and X-rays. At Community Hospital, Filly began an initiative more than five years ago designed to adjust CT scan protocols to use the lowest possible dose of radiation and still get clear images. To measure the success of the initiative, he then determined the median dose range of exams at Community Hospital and compared it to those of Bay Area hospitals. This small study revealed that Community Hospital is below the median doses at other area institutions.

Results of the study as well as information on common radiation exposures can be found at the bottom of the page.

But the effort didn’t stop there. “When we have compared our radiation doses to other institutions in the immediate area on a patient-by-patient basis, Community Hospital has also been shown to be significantly lower,” Filly says. 

“Through this initiative and the CT technology available at Community Hospital,” he continues, “we have been able to adjust the radiation dose on every single image for every patient, and use just enough to get a clear picture.”

Comparing radiation exposures

Community Hospital is committed to using the lowest possible dose of radiation to acquire appropriate images. Community Hospital’s median radiation doses in a range of computed tomography (CT) scans of adults were equal to or lower than the median of Bay Area hospitals studied by UC San Francisco. (Figures are in millisieverts, a commonly used radiation measurement.)

Source            Community Hospital median dose Bay Area hospitals’ median dose Difference  at Community Hospital
CT chest scan 5 8 38 percent lower
CT head scan 2 2 same
CT abdomen/pelvis 10 16 38 percent lower
CT pulmonary embolism angiography 6 10 40 percent lower
CT coronary angiography 5 22 77 percent lower

Common radiation

All people are exposed to radiation daily from natural and manmade sources, including materials in the soil and cosmic rays from outer space. Some common ways that people are exposed to radiation and the associated doses are shown. 

Source Dose
Cosmic rays during roundtrip flight from Los Angeles to New York .03
Chest X-ray .1
Dental X-ray .04 - .15
Full-body airport screening .25 (maximum limit)
One year of natural radiation 3*