Joint Commission Issues Alert on Radiation Risks of Diagnostic Imaging

The Joint Commission has issued a new Sentinel Event Alert (pdf) urging organizations to take action to reduce repeated doses of radiation to patients from diagnostic radiation tests.


Patients may face long-term damage and cumulative harm if given repeated doses of diagnostic radiation. Several recent studies have raised concerns about the increased risk of cancer from diagnostic imaging, particularly in children, young adults and pregnant women.


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The specific actions suggested by The Joint Commission, according to a news release, include the following:

  • Use of imaging techniques other than CT, such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging and collaboration between radiologists and referring physicians about the appropriate use of diagnostic imaging.
  • Adherence to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's ALARA ("as low as reasonably achievable") guidelines, as well as guidelines from the Society for Pediatric Radiology, American College of Radiology and the Radiological Society of North America for imaging for children and adults, respectively.
  • Assurance by radiologists that the proper dosing protocol is in place for the patient being treated and review of all dosing protocols against the latest evidence either annually or every two years.
  • Expansion of the radiation safety officer's role to explicitly include patient safety as it relates to radiation and dosing, as well as education on proper dosing and equipment usage for all physicians and technologists who prescribe diagnostic radiation or use diagnostic radiation equipment.
  • Implementation of centralized quality and safety performance monitoring of all diagnostic imaging equipment that may emit high amounts of radiation cumulatively.


"Diagnostic imaging is a necessary medical tool, but it must be used with great care," said Mark R. Chassin, MD, FACP, MPP, MPH, president of The Joint Commission, in the release. "Although there is still debate about how much is too much radiation, and the timeframe within which radiation can be safely administered, the recommendations in this Alert give healthcare organizations practical strategies to make sure that patients get the right diagnostic imaging tests with the lowest dose of radiation needed to make a diagnosis. In addition, The Joint Commission's standards support the use of safe and effective diagnostic radiation and promote a safety culture, which is necessary for the safe use of diagnostic radiation."


More Articles Featuring The Joint Commission:

Patient Safety Tool: Universal Protocol Poster From Joint Commission

Overview of Quality Reporting in Surgery Centers: Q&A With ASC Donna Slosburg of the ASC Quality Collaboration

Top 10 Most Frequently Reviewed Sentinel Event Categories

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