Dr. Avnish Jolly,31 May: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has come up with a quality assurance programmes at hospitals and clinics to reduce the usage of X-rays in developing countries due to repeated exposures to radiation for clear image quality.
According to a survey conducted by IAEA Division of Radiation, Waste and Transport Safety, patients in developing countries often need to have X-ray examinations repeated so that doctors have the image quality they need for useful medical diagnosis. The survey was done in phases from August 2005 to December 2006 at hospitals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Madagascar, Sudan, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia. The survey found that more than half (53 per cent) of all X-ray images evaluated through the project were of poor quality affecting diagnostic information.
IAEA Radiation Safety Specialist Madan Rehani emphasised that poor image quality constitutes a major source of unnecessary radiation to patients in developing countries and usage of X-rays is increasing in these nations.He added that vital information about both the quality of X-ray images and patient doses is grossly lacking at many hospitals where the IAEA has helped launch quality assurance programmes.
Project counterparts in these countries worked through IAEA-supported regional technical cooperation projects that aim to help countries implement quality assurance programmes for radiographic examinations, in line with international radiation safety standards.
Rehani said that one consequence is that patients then are given repeat examinations, which means exposing them to X-rays again, as well as entailing extra costs.
According to a paper just published in the June edition of the American Journal of Roentgenology, Rehani and colleagues reported that considerable benefits were seen regionally after introduction of QA programmes. The quality of X-ray images improved up to 16 per cent in Africa, 13 per cent in Asia and 22 per cent in Eastern Europe. At the same time, patient dose reductions ranging from 1.4 per cent to 85 per cent were achieved overall.
The IAEA-supported projects could help change the picture at more hospitals in developing countries by changing the approach to quality assurance in radiography. “We’re documenting that the evaluation of image quality and patient dose goes hand in hand with safe and effective medical radiography,” Rehani said.
The project on strengthening radiological protection of patients is designed to help countries apply the international basic safety standards for the protection against ionizing radiation and for the safety of radiation sources (BSS), developed by the IAEA, World Health Organisation and other partners.Despite the finding that repeat X-ray examinations were often needed, patient doses in the 12 countries surveyed were in line with international diagnostic reference levels and similar to doses recorded in developed countries.
Altogether 34 countries agreed to participate in the IAEA survey. The findings come from a survey involving thousands of patients in 45 hospitals and 12 countries of Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.