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IAEA and African Experts Establish First Harmonized Imaging Quality Control Protocols in the Region


During the Task Force meeting, new quality assurance protocols were elaborated to improve the quality of nuclear medicine services. Here, a head phantom is being aligned in the gantry of a Computed Tomography machine at the Allgemeines Krankenhaus in Vienna, Austria. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Working with the IAEA, African experts  have succeeded in establishing the continent’s first harmonized quality control (QC) guidance for nuclear medicine and diagnostic radiology. Following a series of virtual events held as part of an ongoing technical cooperation project[1], the project team has developed protocols with practical guidance on how to perform routine QC measurements to monitor the performance of X-ray and nuclear medicine systems.  

The development of more harmonized quality control in Africa was first proposed in March 2020. Aware of the growing use of imaging services using nuclear technology on the continent, and of the corresponding need to ensure their quality and safety, a task force was established to elaborate and draft QC protocols.

On 1 June, at the first virtual meeting of the task force, its five constituent members drafted the QC guidance for a variety of imaging modalities, including radiography and computed tomography (CT), among others.

Peer-reviewed by medical physics experts from Africa and Europe, under the coordination of the IAEA Technical Officers, the harmonized QC guidance will enable hospitals in Africa to closely align their quality assurance programmes by standardizing both data collection and analysis. This will allow medical institutions to compare and verify their results.

In addition to enhancing effective diagnosis in the African region, the new QC guidance can also be adopted by individual countries that have not yet established their own national quality control programmes.

The harmonized protocols also include nuclear medicine evaluation testing and image-processing parameters, particularly as they relate to in-house IAEA software (NMQC), a plugin used to evaluate the performance and quality of nuclear medicine QC images.

 “This important document provides key support to African countries whose capacities for quality assurance were limited in the fields of radiology and nuclear medicine,” said Imen Bentouhami, IAEA Programme Management Officer in charge of the initiative. “This will not only result in enhancing the quality and safety of imaging services in Africa, but will furthermore facilitate a comparison of results, as well as knowledge- and experience-sharing across the region,” Bentouhami continued.

“This document will strengthen the work of the medical physicists, especially in countries where no minimum standards are required by regulatory authorities. A unified harmonized approach will make the learning curve for new colleagues less steep,” said Chris Trauernicht, a medical physicist at the Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, who served as a member of the task force.

“Quality Control is one of the cornerstones of our work,” said Nadia Khelassi-Toutaoui, another task force member, from the Nuclear Research Centre of Algiers. “The document will serve as a guideline and will facilitate implementation in the region.”

The establishment of effective, harmonized QC methods for high-dose imaging procedures is a key output of the ongoing regional project, which aims to improve the overall safety and effectiveness of nuclear medicine and diagnostic radiology services in Africa through dose optimization and, ultimately, through the development of appropriate quality assurance programmes.

[1] RAF6053 “Enhancing Capacity Building of Medical Physicists to Improve Safety and Effectiveness of Medical Imaging (AFRA)”

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