Doctors File Lawsuits Against Hospital for Failure to Provide Fluoroscopic Radiation Safety

In what may be the first lawsuits of their kind, 3 surgeons have filed lawsuits alleging a hospital’s radiation safety practices were inadequate and that radiation exposure caused their cancers.  The first of the lawsuits will take place early in 2020.

The lawsuits do not accuse manufacturers of the imaging equipment or protective gear of wrongdoing. It was how the equipment was being used and the absence of training, poor and missing personal protection equipment, no dosimeter badge readings and not enough of these protections, i.e. leaded skirts, jackets, aprons and thyroid shields, were available.  The lawsuits also allege the hospital did not effectively monitor radiation exposure or communicate to personnel the risks of cumulative exposure to that radiation.

All three of the surgeons started working at St. Vincent Evansville Hospital around 2007 and were diagnosed eight years later within 13 months of each other. Two had thyroid cancer and the third had a glioblastoma. Their attorney disclosed “It was also important that for an almost two-year period at the start, there were no records on the amount of radiation exposure these men had.”

The National Institute for Health cited in their 2016 report other recent studies that appeared in the Cardiology journals.

The Cardiology report/study showed a higher incidence of glioblastoma multiforme at the left hemisphere among interventionists. As this study was only a voluntary reported case series, the true incidence of the tumor among physicians is unknown. Nevertheless, it is of interest that glioblastoma is related to radiation exposure and that the incidence was higher in the hemisphere facing the X-ray tube. Another survey reported that breast cancer that is also sensitive to radiation exposure was more frequent in the left side among female cardiologists.

There is a growing body of studies and reports calling attention to the health issues faced by medical professionals who are repeatedly exposed over time to low doses of ionizing radiation from equipment and procedures.

At this most critical time, regulatory and accreditation bodies have backed away from mandatory training and continuing education on radiation producing equipment and the radiation exposure data from a particular kind of radiation producing equipment. The Joint Commission and many state agencies as well as OSHA and others that submitted to pressure from political activist groups to stymie the safety requirements for utilization of the equipment. These groups, usually professional societies, protested that they did not have time to attend these sessions.  The problem with the political representation or these professional groups of physicians is that they only represent the small number of physician members of the group. The remaining physician practitioners are not aware that representation of their interests may not truly be in their best interest. And additionally, if the political lobby that speaks against implementation of the fluoroscopic safety training and education requirements are representing the orthopedic surgeons, what happens to the cardiologists, surgeons, pain management, gastroenterologists, and other physicians who are actively using fluoro in different settings?

These lawsuits may be a wakeup call for many groups who said they did not have time to be educated about radiation dose and safety. There are methods to reduce dose in fluoroscopic procedures that will protect the patient and the operator.  Truly, the size of the monetary awards if these lawsuits progress to a finding of neglect on the part of the hospital, will alter many policies and procedures regarding who is qualified to administer the facility radiation safety.

Advanced Health Education Center is a premiere provider of radiation safety and fluoroscopic training.  Our faculty is world renowned medical physicists who will teach you the principles of radiation protection and the biological effects of x-ray radiation.  These courses will improve your understanding of operation and principles of the fluoroscopic system to include exposure (air kerma) outputs, high level control options, dose reduction techniques, and procedures for recording pertinent data.

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