California gets landmark radiologist dose reporting law

September 30, 2010

California radiologists will be required to incorporate radiation dose levels in their reports under a measure signed into law Thursday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The measure requires that radiologists include in their reports the dose length product or the CT dose index if the machine is able to calculate it.

California radiologists will be required to incorporate radiation dose levels in their reports under a measure signed into law Thursday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The measure requires that radiologists include in their reports the dose length product or the CT dose index if the machine is able to calculate it.

Radiologists have never had to do that before, according to Don Stockett, a plaintiff’s attorney who consulted on the measure. He anticipates that other states will follow suit.

“Other states have traditionally followed California’s path, so it would not be surprising to see numerous other states follow the bill, or enact one similar to it,” he said.

Stockett represented a toddler and his parents in a lawsuit against Mad River Community Hospital in Arcata after the child was left for an extended period of time in a CT scanner. The child’s parents reached a confidential settlement with the hospital in May.

“Most of the radiologists never knew what the dosage was because the protocols were never being transferred with PACS to where the radiologist would have seen it,” he said. “The bill requires the protocols on the study to go with the images. That’s something that’s observable to the radiologist now.”

Also in the bill:

  • Radiation overdoses must be reported to the patient, the treating physician, and the state Department of Public Health,

  • All facilities that conduct CT scans must be accredited according to federal standards starting Jan. 1, 2013,

  • CT equipment must be calibrated annually and verification is required.

The measure will go into effect Jan. 1, 2012.

Such a bill was inevitable because of the incidents such as the Mad River case and also what happened at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Stockett said.

The California Radiological Society was neutral on the bill, but worked with Sen. Alex Padilla (D- Pacoima) and the bill’s other sponsors to ensure the legislation was as fair as possible, said the society’s president, Bob Achermann.

“We accomplished most of our major objectives,” Achermann said. “We tried to make the bill as practical as possible. It’s not perfect. I’m sure once the language is out there, and people have a chance to think about how it’s going to work, they’ll come back with suggestions.”

All things considered, the legislation could have been a heck of a lot worse, he said.