Tuesday, July 20, 2021

A study has found that the levels of ionising radiation received by patients in procedures such as X-rays has reduced in Ireland over the past ten years.

Following a survey of service providers the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has published a report with updated diagnostic reference levels (DRLs) for general radiography and mammography and produced DXA DRLs for the first time in Ireland.

DRLs represent typical radiation dose levels set for common medical imaging procedures and clinical tasks. This new national data will allow service providers to compare the radiation doses they issue to patients with national DRL figures, identify medical radiological procedures that require review and put corrective actions in place to reduce exposure to ionising radiation where needed to further improve safety.

HIQA found that the level of radiation patients are being exposed to has reduced when compared to a 2010 HSE study. Reductions ranged from 2-27% for all medical imaging procedures reviewed as part of this study. This new national DRL data compares positively with recently published European DRLs, as the vast majority of Irish DRLs, for both adult and paediatric radiography, are below that referenced in guidance issued by the European Commission.

John Tuffy, HIQA’s Regional Manager for Ionising Radiation, said the data means the risk associated with X-rays in Ireland is reduced and it’s positive news for patient safety.

“This data shows us that people are now typically receiving reduced radiation doses for simple X-ray procedures such as chest X-rays in Ireland”.

“When the amount of ionising radiation received by patients is reduced and the diagnostic integrity of images is still maintained, this is a positive outcome for people using services.”

The survey found that the total number of general X-rays conducted in Ireland has remained mostly consistent since this was last surveyed in 2010, however increases have been seen in screening mammography services.

In Ireland, HIQA found that newer equipment is used in mammography, followed by pediatric radiography, where dedicated equipment is used, followed by adult general radiography and DXA. A significant portion of DXA equipment and general radiography equipment were 10 years or older.

Sean Egan, HIQA’s Head of Healthcare Regulation hopes the results provide patients with the reassurance that Ireland’s data compares favourably with guidance issued by the European Commission and the risk associated with X-rays of this nature are lower now than before.

“HIQA will continue to build upon its programme to date to promote patient safety and protection from ionising radiation. We are committed to sharing lessons learned from our regulation of exposure to ionising radiation in Ireland. We continue to investigate and inspect facilities in which these services are provided to promote a high-quality service and care for Irish patients.”

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