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NYT: More overradiated babies at SUNY Downstate

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | April 13, 2011
State health inspectors found nearly two dozen cases at a Brooklyn hospital where preterm babies received "improper" X-rays, only a few months after a report revealed the hospital had similar problems in 2007, according to the New York Times.

During a March 9 inspection of the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, investigators said they found 27 cases of chest X-rays taken of premature babies who were irradiated beyond the chest area without proper shielding. The X-rays were taken late last year through January, the Times said.

Babies and children are more vulnerable to the long-term health effects of ionizing radiation, because their tissues are more radiosensitive and they have a longer life ahead of them in which cancers could develop.

The recent inspection was prompted by a February Times article about radiation errors in 2007 at SUNY Downstate, brought to light by a doctor-whistleblower. In one email from 2007 obtained by the newspaper, the hospital's chief radiologist complained that a newborn received 10 whole-body X-rays even though only a chest X-ray had been requested.

In the current inspection, state officials said one premie born at 26 weeks received five chest X-rays over two months, and the radiation was not appropriately limited to the chest. Another baby had a chest X-ray that included the head, arms and abdomen, the Times said.

According to the Times, the report stated that 27 improper X-rays were discovered among the 542 reviewed by inspectors.

In 2007, Downstate said it put in place procedures to minimize children's exposure to radiation, such as reducing the dose for pediatric CT scans.

In the current report, state officials cited a radiologist who said radiologic technologists were sometimes told by ordering physicians to include "additional areas of interest" in the chest X-ray.

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