In the latest incidence of patient over-radiation reported by the media in recent months, the New York Times today reports a discovery by state health inspectors of nearly two dozen cases in which preterm babies received "improper" X-rays at a Brooklyn, New York hospital. The findings came to light only a few months after an initial report revealed that the institution—State University of New York Downstate Medical Center--had similar problems in 2007, according to the newspaper.
During a March 9 inspection of the hospital, investigators, in reviewing a total of 542 x-rays taken in 2010 and through the end of January 2011, found 27 cases involving chest X-rays of premature babies who were irradiated beyond the chest area without proper shielding. State officials said one preemie born at 26 weeks received five chest X-rays over a two-month period, noting that the radiation was not appropriately limited to the chest. Another baby was administered a chest X-ray that included the head, arms, and abdomen, the Times said.
The recent inspection was prompted by a February Times article about radiation errors that occurred at the hospital in 2007 and were brought to light by a whistle-blowing physician on its staff. In one e-mail from 2007 obtained by the newspaper, the hospital's chief radiologist complained that a newborn had received 10 whole-body X-rays even though only a chest X-ray had been requested. The hospital is said to have long ago implemented procedures to minimize children's exposure to radiation, such as reducing the dose for pediatric CT scans. However, 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.