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Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority Releases March Advisory Highlighting Communication Issues That Affect Patient Safety
Date:3/27/2008

Analysis shows pregnant patients receive x-rays; however most believed they were not pregnant at the time of the procedure. The degree of risk varies with each case.

HARRISBURG, Pa., March 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pregnant patients received x-rays (ionizing radiation) in over 90 cases reported to the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority in which many of the patients had indicated they were not pregnant, according to analysis published in the Authority's March 2008 Patient Safety Advisory.

Further analysis and research shows the risk however may not be as great as physicians and the public think, particularly if the pregnant patient has not had multiple diagnostic x-ray procedures. Risk also varies depending upon the radiation dose and the period of gestation of the fetus.

"While pregnant patients do not want to risk potentially harming the fetus by having unnecessary x-rays done, our research shows that risk can be minimized if the procedure must be done for medical reasons," John Clarke, MD, clinical director of the Patient Safety Authority said. "However, we also give several prevention strategies for facilities to consider implementing to reduce the risk of unnecessary x-rays to pregnant patients and we ask facilities to raise awareness of the issue."

Some of the prevention advice includes analyzing the need for the procedure, not relying only on a patient's history in determining whether or not a patient may be pregnant and raising awareness among physicians about diagnostic radiation doses and its effects to ensure the amount of risk to the exposed patient is justifiable.

"By more accurately determining the risk a patient will incur if exposed to diagnostic x-rays, healthcare providers can give more appropriate patient counseling prior to the procedure to avoid anxiety and a possible termination of a wanted pregnancy," Clarke said. "There are many factors that need to be considered and questions answer
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SOURCE Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority
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