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Radiation Overdoses Coming To Light Following Brain Perfusion CT Scans

Imagine suddenly losing your hair in a narrow ring around your head (right about where a hat would sit) but have no idea why. That dilemma was the start of a very troubling discovery for hundreds of people across the country who had been the victims of radiation overdoses during CT scans.

In the summer of 2009, reports of the telltale hair loss and other symptoms began surfacing, as medical experts and the victims themselves began putting the pieces together. All signs pointed toward radiation overdoses during CT perfusion scans — tests for blood flow in the brain, commonly used to diagnose a stroke.

In addition to short-term hair loss, the overdoses carry frightening risks over the long term: patients have been advised that they may develop cancer, brain damage, or eye damage as a result of the elevated exposure to radiation.

Scanners manufactured by GE and Toshiba have been implicated in the cases. The Food and Drug Administration has been investigating and may expand its investigation in light of newly discovered cases, according to the New York Times (which recently published a front-page article on the overdoses). Four hospitals have been known to administered overdoses, including one unidentified hospital in the Bay Area. So far over 400 cases have been identified, with more patients expected to come forward thanks to recent media attention.

While manufacturers and hospital officials have had little comment, those that have spoken on the matter, including government investigators, stress that this is not a malfunction of the equipment, but rather an overdose. Generally, the higher the amount of radiation used in a CT scan, the clearer the image. But there are currently no official standards on how much radiation is too much, so doctors advise technicians to use just the minimum amount necessary for a good image. Even with a minimal amount of radiation, however, the dosage is 200 times that of an X-ray. Information regarding the radiation level is displayed on the operator’s computer screen, but the operators have not been advised to observe or track the dosages, according Los Angeles officials investigating overdoses there.

Anyone who has recently undergone a brain perfusion CT scan — particularly anyone who has experienced the distinctive hair loss in a ring around the skull — should contact a doctor to determine whether an overdose may have occurred. Victims should also consult with an attorney with experience in medical malpractice to ensure their legal rights are protected. Contact our San Jose attorneys at (408) 289-1417 to schedule a complimentary consultation.

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