Heart hospital initiative cuts cardiology imaging radiation exposure in half

The University of Ottawa Heart Institute (UOHI) was able to cut radiation doses in half for the vast majority of its nuclear cardiology patients via a new initiative that combines optimizing test protocols, state-of-the-art equipment and high-tech software.

The average dose that North American heart patients receive when they undergo SPECT perfusions scans is between 9 and 11 millisieverts (mSv), but the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology is recommending that the radiation exposure be reduced to less than 9 mSv in 50 percent of patients by the end of this year. UOHI has far surpassed that recommendation; its average dose for an individual is roughly 5 mSv.

"Our clinicians are taking a much more critical look at who they are testing with methods using radiation and making decisions based upon risk and benefit which will only expose patients to radiation who need the test," Benjamin Chow, director of cardiac imaging at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, said in an announcement. "These responsible practices, along with appropriate use of technology, can reduce radiation exposure by 50 percent for patients undergoing cardiac imaging in Canada."

Some of the innovations instituted by UOHI include the installation of a cadmium zinc telluride camera system (CZT), which, along with new software, optimizes image quality with less data or information, Chow, told the Ottawa Citizen. "We can acquire much more information in a shorter period of time."

The hospital also is refining the processes it uses to decide which patients need testing, and which testing is most appropriate for those patients, according to Chow.

"The last thing any clinician wants to do is not test an individual for fear of missing disease," Chow told the Citizen. "But any test we do, even if it's running on the treadmill, carries some risk. We're always trying to find the proper balance."

To learn more:
- read the article in the Ottawa Citizen
- see the announcement from the University of Ottawa Heart Institute

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