The health care landscape in America has certainly changed over the last several years, with more changes and more uncertainly around the corner. However, at the end of the day – or the beginning of the year – it’s important to remember the tremendous health care resources available to us here in the United States.
One of those resources is medical imaging. Our health care system uses numerous imaging tests – including X-rays, mammograms, CT lung scans, ultrasound, MRI and PET scans – to help identify a wide variety of diseases, injuries and health conditions. Medical imaging saves lives and makes it easier for us as radiologists to find and diagnose disease as soon as possible. Greater accuracy and lower radiation in imaging procedures continue to make imaging procedures better, safer and faster.
The National Bureau of Economic Research reports from its 2009 research that increased use of medical imaging is directly tied to an increase in life expectancy for Americans. The same study also clearly demonstrated that breast cancer screening (mammography) significantly reduces breast cancer mortality. New low-dose CT lung scans have recently shown great potential to reduce lung cancer mortality and lower treatment costs; in 2015, low-dose CT lung screening became a covered health benefit for select populations of current and former smokers.
With the rapid increase in the number and frequency of imaging procedures, two organizations were formed to promote the safest use of medical imaging technology: Image GentlyÒ for pediatric imaging and Image WiselyÒ for adult imaging. Our group, along with many others around the country, has officially taken both the Image Gently and Image Wisely pledges.
When an imaging facility officially takes these pledges, it means the facility and its staff are committed to raising awareness of opportunities to lower radiation doses for necessary procedures and eliminate medically unnecessary imaging exams. These programs assure patients and their referring physicians that the facility and staff have pledged to carefully balance potential radiation exposure risks with the benefits gained from such procedures.
Launched in 2007, the Image Gently campaign is an initiative of the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging, which encourages the safe imaging of pediatric patients. The campaign’s goal is to change practice by increasing awareness of radiation protection in the imaging of children. Built on the success of the Image Gently campaign, the Image Wisely campaign focuses on increasing awareness of adult radiation protection. Image Wisely is a collaborative effort of the Joint Task Force on Adult Radiation Protection (made up of members of the American College of Radiology and the Radiological Society of North America), the American Association of Physicists in Medicine, and the American Society of Radiologic Technologists. FBN
By Kenneth V. Salce, M.D.
Kenneth V. Salce, M.D., is a board certified radiologist practicing diagnostic and interventional radiology. He is based in Flagstaff.