Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?

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This article originally ran on the Imaging Technology News (ITN) website, and is republished with its permission.

The silence is deafening.  And since radiology associations, physician groups and vendors have yet to publicly respond to the elephant in the room, I offer the following in hopes we can get the conversation started…

On Tuesday, January 27, Consumer Reports (CR) posted an article and video that, in a not entirely subtle way, accused physicians and the radiology community of ignorance, negligence and/or malfeasance.  The gist of CR’s article is that many physicians are sending patients for CT scans they don’t really need, either to cover a specific part of their anatomy from lawsuits or to pay the mortgages on their pricey CT scanners.  And the cherry on top is approximately 15,000 patients receiving CT scans will die from being exposed to high doses of cancer-causing radiation.

Haven’t we danced this dance before?! 

The CR piece was, in the very least, irresponsible – igniting yet another media firestorm that will, no doubt, result in unnecessary and unwarranted consumer panic.  CR didn’t appear to interview representatives from leading radiology associations, radiology groups or – God forbid – technology vendors for their perspectives on this subject.  More disturbing perhaps, one would think the mainstream media would do its homework before parroting Consumer Reports-speak.  Not the case.  “If it bleeds, it leads baby!”

Nowhere in the article was mention of the number of lives saved by CT scans annually.  Nowhere in the article was mention of training programs offered by educational groups, associations, healthcare media, and technology vendors.  Nowhere in the article was mention of how said vendors are committing considerable resources to develop transformational dose-lowering technology and dose monitoring software/programs.  Might mention of this steal the thunder of CR’s article or subsequent media coverage?

In fairness to Consumer Reports and to healthcare consumers, yes, there have been abuses.  Yes, some CT scans have been prescribed for less than altruistic reasons.  Yes, more needs to be done to educate healthcare providers about the dangers of radiation dose.  Yes, radiation dose is a valid concern that healthcare consumers need to be aware of and discuss with their care providers.  My issue is with how this was communicated by both CR and the mainstream media.  If you’re going to “educate” – then educate.  Don’t sensationalize.  Call me loco, but shouldn’t the responsibility of educating healthcare consumers about radiation dose be the responsibility of healthcare professionals, rather than consumer media, who apparently still have much to learn?

Cowboys, let your collective voices be heard.

Sean Reilly, ITNSean Reilly is healthcare brands group publisher (Imaging Technology News and Diagnostic and Interventional Cardiology) at Scranton Gillette Communications.




  • reply

    Norberto P. Daan

    Aside from expenses saving by not using x-ray films, kindly explain the advantage of using CR or DR in medical imaging? With regards to radiation doses using high MaS instead using high kVp in increasing density and contrast?


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