Frequently Asked Questions
At Beaumont, patient safety is as important as medical progress. We take all of the necessary steps to ensure that patients will not be exposed to unnecessary radiation during cancer treatments and decrease radiation exposure during testing.
What safety steps has Beaumont taken to ensure that the CT scanners and other equipment are operating properly?
Beaumont's administrative and medical directors, radiologists, technical directors, medical physicists and technologists are highly skilled in the proper use of the X-ray, CT, mammography and nuclear medicine equipment and are trained in the appropriate dose saving features for each piece of equipment and for each patient population (e.g., pediatric vs. adult; weight based radiation doses for cardiac CT and PET). Beaumont is committed to providing our radiologists and nuclear medicine physicians with the highest quality image with the lowest possible radiation dose to the patient. The following safety steps are taken to ensure that the CT scanners and other equipment are operating properly:
- Only board certified radiologists are employed at Beaumont and we have specialty trained radiologists in pediatrics, CT, mammography, MRI, and general radiology. Beaumont has dedicated nuclear medicine departments and employs only board certified nuclear medicine physicians.
- Acceptance testing of new X-ray generating and nuclear medicine equipment by medical physicists to ensure both the radiation dose and image quality meets specification.
- Annual performance testing (which includes an assessment of radiation dose and image quality) by the medical physicist.
- Routine QA (daily, monthly quarterly) performed by the technology staff in conformance with the manufacturer's specifications.
- Service, Repair and Follow up: whenever the X-ray equipment is not operating in accordance with manufacturer's specifications or government regulations, a service request is placed and either Beaumont or the manufacturer's service engineer responds by repairing the problem. The repairs to each X-ray generating machines are tracked. Often the medical physicist will verify that the service was effective after the repair is complete, especially for mammography equipment.
- Beaumont employs only board certified and registered technologists (RT) who operate the X-ray generating equipment, board certified CT technologists, and board certified nuclear medicine technologists. Since Beaumont has a student technology program, student technologist may also operate X-ray and nuclear medicine equipment under the supervision of the RT (registered technologist). (The only exception is the bone density scanners, where we have may have non-registered personnel operating the equipment. In this case, comprehensive bone density scanner principles and radiation safety are taught by the medical physicist and successful passing grade on an exam is required).
- Preventative maintenance is performed routinely on all of the X-ray and nuclear medicine equipment either by Beaumont service engineers or by the manufacturer. This is documented and reported to the Equipment Performance Committee in compliance with the Joint Commission. Each piece of equipment has a service and repair history.
- The operation of the X-ray equipment is also subject to State inspections as follows: every year for mammography equipment, and every five years for non-mammography X-ray generating equipment.
How are patients scheduled on the Flash CT?
At the present time, Beaumont will schedule a patient on the Flash CT if it is ordered by their referring physician and they communicate that to our scheduling staff. Coronary CT/CTA at all sites, and pediatrics at RO and TROY are also scheduled on the CT Flash scanners. Coronary CT/CTA may also be scheduled on the CT scanner at Beaumont’s West Bloomfield Medical Center.
What is Beaumont doing to reduce radiation exposure for cardiac CT imaging?
Radiation exposure may also be reduced when technologists use special “gating” techniques to lower tube voltage during CT imaging tests. In June 2009, a Beaumont-led study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that radiation exposure for heart CTs can be cut in half using these techniques with no effect on image quality . Beaumont is the leader of a statewide collaborative research study of CT heart scanning that includes hospitals throughout Michigan.
What type of mammography equipment is used at Beaumont?
Digital mammography is used at Beaumont. Film is no longer used by Diagnostic Radiology or Nuclear Medicine. All of these images are processed through PACS (Picture Archiving and Communication System). This is a computer system for acquiring, storing, viewing, and managing digital medical imaging studies and related information.
What is the advantage of the Flash CT for pediatric patients?
Using a spiral (helical) CT unit to examine children is faster than other CT scanners, reducing the need for sedation and general anesthesia. New technologies, such as the Flash CT, make even faster scanning possible. For children this means shorter imaging times and less time required to hold still in order to produce clear images. Also, shorter scan times will make it easier for children to hold their breath during critical parts of the exam.
One of the best ways of limiting radiation exposure is to avoid CT scans that are not clearly needed. Other measures are to restrict the area scanned as much as possible and to "fine tune" the CT settings based on the reason for the exam, the body area being examined, and the child's size. Beaumont has specially trained pediatric radiologists who use the lowest radiation dose that will provide the needed diagnostic information.
How much radiation exposure will I receive from a Heart CT done at Beaumont Hospitals?
The average dose for Heart CT or CT angiography (without calcium scoring) is significantly less the national average of 16 mSv and estimated to be 9 mSv. Heart CT or CT angiography (without calcium scoring) using the Flash CT averages 2 mSv.
What is ionizing radiation?
Ionizing radiation is the term for any waves or particles that have a very high energy, enough to overcome the force that binds electrons to their atoms, allowing for removal of an electron from an atom and/or molecule. The result of an ionizing interaction is an electron and an ion. Since ions have a different number of positively charged protons in its nucleus than negatively charged electrons orbiting the nucleus, it becomes more chemically reactive. Atoms that have an equal number of protons and electrons are generally not as chemically reactive.
What are X-rays?
X-rays are the most common form of ionizing radiation used in medical imaging. X-rays are photons, similar to light, but they have a higher energy than light photons. Other examples of ionizing radiation include gamma rays and charged particles like electrons, protons, and other heavy ions. Many of the X-rays used in imaging do not interact with our bodies, allowing creation of an image from the transmitted X-rays.