Brigham and Women's plans to notify doctors on imaging histories

As the number of imaging scans has spiked in recent years, some doctors have become concerned about the volume of radiation some patients are receiving. Now, studies and anecdotal evidence are suggesting the problem may be more serious than previously suspected.

In response, Brigham and Women's Hospital has become one of the first hospitals in the U.S. to notify doctors of their patients' imaging history. Right now, the risk "is not as high on doctors' radar screens as it should be,'' said Dr. Michael Lauer, director of the Division of Cardiovascular Disease at the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, in an interview with The Boston Globe.

Brigham and Women's plan comes in response to a study conducted by hospital researchers concluding that high levels of radiation exposure are more common than some professionals might expect.

The study, which was published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at insurance records from almost 1 million adults, ages 18 to 64. It found that 20 percent of those patients had gotten moderate radiation doses, and 2 percent received high or very high doses that exceeded the annual amount allowed for healthcare and nuclear industry workers.

Extrapolating from this data, researchers concluded that about 4 million Americans are being exposed to large amounts of radiation from imaging tests.

To learn more about Brigham's plans:
- read this piece from The Boston Globe