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Combination of existing safety checks could greatly reduce radiotherapy errors
Date:8/2/2011

A combination of several well-known safety procedures could greatly reduce patient-harming errors in the use of radiation to treat cancer, according to a new study led by Johns Hopkins researchers.

Radiation oncologists use more than a dozen quality assurance (QA) checks to prevent radiotherapy errors, but until now, the Hopkins researchers say, no one has systematically evaluated their effectiveness. Working with researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, the Hopkins team gathered data on about 4,000 "near miss" events that occurred during 2008-2010 at the two institutions. They then narrowed the data set to 290 events in which errors occurred that if they had not been caught in time could have allowed serious harm to patients. For each commonly used QA check, they determined the percentage of these potential patient-harming incidents that could have been prevented.

The group's key finding was that a combination of approximately six common QA measures would have prevented more than 90 percent of the potential incidents.

"While clinicians in this field may be familiar with these quality assurance procedures, they may not have appreciated how effective they are in combination," says Eric Ford, Ph.D., D.A.B.R., assistant professor of Radiation Oncology and Molecular Radiation Sciences at Johns Hopkins, who will present the group's findings on August 3 at the joint American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) and Canadian Organization of Medical Physicists annual meeting, held July 31 to August 4, 2011 in Vancouver, Canada.

At a separate symposium at the meeting, also on August 3, Ford and his colleagues will make related recommendations for the standardization of radiotherapy accident investigation procedures.

Ionizing radiation such as gamma radiation or proton beam radiation has long been a staple in cancer treatment, because it can efficiently create cell-killing DNA breaks within tumors. The goal
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Contact: Vanessa Wasta
wasta@jhmi.edu
410-955-1287
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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