Reducing patients' cumulative radiation exposure from medical procedures without losing clinical benefits is a leading priority for international organisations, including the International Atomic Energy Agency. Together these organizations are supporting the effort to establish national and regional systems that track patient's radiation exposure.
A joint position statement was developed by representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO), professional societies of radiology, medical physics and radiographers, and a group of experts at a meeting facilitated by the IAEA, which met at the IAEA's Headquarters in Vienna, Austria in early 2012. The position statement was then considered and formally endorsed by the participating organizations, and culminates a long-standing IAEA project that has been pushing to establish worldwide exposure tracking systems since 2009. By adding their combined weight to the policy statement, these organisations help strengthen the argument for countries to create and adopt such a mechanism.
For patients this means obtaining access to their record of radiation exposure, using the health card or personal identification number, a record that would be stored in a national or regional database accessible with patient's consent by doctor providing treatment.
"This system is critical if the medical community is going to keep patients safe when they are being referred for more and more diagnostic scans. These scans, over the years, are made using more and more powerful machines," says Madan Rehani, Radiation Safety Specialist in the IAEA's Radiation Protection of Patients Unit.
"The tracking system will draw doctors' attention to previous radiological examinations, both in terms of clinical information and radiation dose and thus help them assess whether the eleventh or twentieth CT scan is really appropriate, whether it will do more good than harm."
Such tracking mechanisms are already in place to some extent in Estonia, Finland, Malta, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Israel, the Czech Republic and Belgium.
The meeting followed the submission of ten recommendations by a consultants' group in January 2010 to help developing Member States establish mechanisms established in the Smart Card/SmartRadTrackproject.
The next phase of the project involves the implementation of the Smart Card/SmartRadTrack programme in some member countries. "We have an action plan for implementation which is scheduled tobegin this year," says Rehani.
Organisations that have already endorsed the statement are WHO, the United States' Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Society of Radiology (ESR), the International Organization for Medical Physics (IOMP), the International Society of Radiographers and Radiological Technologists (ISRRT), and the Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors, USA (CRCPD).