I am slightly obsessed with the topic of radiation exposure, since I have covered radiation overdoses from CT scans on this blog and written about radiation issues in post-earthquake Japan and treating radiation injuries for Medscape. So I was interested to learn about efforts to decrease radiation exposure in patients when I stopped by the Society of Interventional Radiology's annual meeting in San Francisco last week.
Interventional radiologists (IRs) perform many minimally-invasive procedures, such as placing stents in arteries to increase blood flow or delivering targeted chemotherapy to a tumor. These procedures can often replace more invasive and riskier open surgeries. But the flip side of this medical progress is that some of the imaging technologies used to guide these procedures, specifically CT scans and X-rays, expose patients to ionizing radiation, the type of radiation that can harm DNA.
A poster at the session explained that CT scans are a key source of radiation exposure in the U.S. This exposure can be decreased by adjusting the CT scanner and basing the dose on the patient's BMI, explained author J. Collins et al. ("A Practical Guide to CT Dosimetry for the Interventional Radiologist").
Another intriguing development covered at the conference: the use of angioplasty (widening a narrowed blood vessel) to treat multiple sclerosis. Angioplasty can clear blockages in veins that might contribute to MS symptoms. Some patients who were studied reported that their symptoms improved after the procedure. The course of MS can be so fickle, though, that it's hard to tell whether symptoms improved or the disease simply relapsed for a while, reporter Laird Harrison explained in a WebMD article on the topic ("Treating Clogged Veins Improves MS, Study Says"). The press release about the procedure from the Society of Interventional Radiology is available online.