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Not many doctors aware of radiation side-effects

The body of Deepak Jain, 30, had turned bluish-black when he was taken to AIIMS on April 4. He was suffering hair loss and was also complaining of severe nausea.

delhi Updated: Apr 18, 2010 23:48 IST
HT Correspondent

The body of Deepak Jain, 30, had turned bluish-black when he was taken to AIIMS on April 4. He was suffering hair loss and was also complaining of severe nausea.

The doctor-on-duty did not treat him. Jain waited for two hours before his family moved him to Apollo.

“There is a high probability the doctor did not know those were radiation burns and did not know how to treat the patient,” a doctor with a government hospital said.

An AIIMS study has found doctors who often refer their patients to X-rays and CT Scans, which are radiation-induced tests, are themselves ignorant of its harmful effects.

The study was recently presented in Vienna in a consultation on ‘justification of patient exposures in medical imaging’.

Conducted among 100 senior and junior resident doctors from departments of medicine, surgery and paediatrics at AIIMS, the 2008 study found 70-80 per cent of doctors were unaware of radiation side-effects.

“The Mayapuri radiation leak was a rare incident. But even in day-to-day X-rays and CT scans, patients are exposed to radiation," said Dr Randeep Guleria, lead researcher and professor of medicine at AIIMS.

“Our aim was to test the knowledge of physicians on radiation exposure and its effects on human body,” he said.

Thirty per cent doctors said MRI had radiation exposure and 20 per cent felt an ultrasound examination was associated with radiation exposure.

Both tests are radiation free.

“While both X-rays and CT scans are very efficient diagnostic tools, they also expose the patient to radiation," said Dr Guleria.

“Long term or repeated exposure to radiation can lead to increased risk of cancer. The risk is much higher in children,” he said, quoting a US study that states that CT scans of abdomen and head cause 1,800 additional cases of stomach cancers and 700 additional cases of cancers in the head every year.

Dr Guleria expressed the need for guidelines on conducting medical tests.

“At times patients are asked to undergo a CT scan more then five times in a month which is not necessary. One CT of the abdomen is equal to 500 chest X-rays.... the degree of exposure is the same that occurred in long-term survivors of the atomic bomb explosion at Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” he said.