Preventing radiation damage in popular medical technique

At a major conference here this week, a team of medical physicists and radiologists is proposing guidelines for reducing the number of complications during an increasingly popular type of surgical approach, known as fluoroscopy-guided intervention. Performed over 700,000 times in U.S. hospitals last year, this approach typically involves threading a specially equipped catheter tube into a patient's body to perform an operation, more commonly termed an "intervention" among medical professionals, and monitoring the procedure's progress with x rays. However, at least 100 documented cases show that fluoroscopy-guided intervention can "burn" or damage normal tissue. Now, at this week's meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), radiologists and physicists at the University of Texas-Houston Medical School will explain how this outcome can be prevented, by making slight technical modifications and educating practitioners of this technique.

Fluoroscopy-guided intervention procedures are performed in many parts of the body, such as the brain, heart, and abdomen. For example, they can treat aneurysms in the brain, by equipping a catheter with special loops which can coil up to block the flow of blood inside the aneurysm. Compared to traditional surgery, the direct intervention approach has many advantages. By positioning a catheter into the area that needs to be treated, doctors can perform interventions inside the body without making any major cuts or incisions. This approach typically leads to shorter recovery times, and shorter hospital stays.

In addition, doctors obtain a continuous video image of the region that is being treated, in real time. They do this by using x-rays in conjunction with a special "contrast agent," typically an iodine-containing liquid, which is injected into the bloodstream to improve the visibility of the images. Sent into the body, the x rays provide a clear image of internal structures in the body. The

Contact: Ben Stein
American Institute of Physics

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