Intermountain Healthcare and GE Healthcare announced plans Tuesday for a multi-year effort to reduce Utah patients' exposure to radiation from computed tomography (CT) scans.
While CT scans are a key tool for detecting diseases such as cancer, infections or internal injuries, and to guide surgeries and radiation, they carry a small risk of causing cancer.
The effort announced Tuesday aims to reduce radiation doses by up to 50 percent, starting at four hospitals: Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Alta View in Sandy, McKay Dee in Ogden and Dixie Regional in St. George.
Using lower doses has typically meant reducing the clarity and value of the image, which could lead to misdiagnosis, delayed treatment and repeat testing.
Intermountain and GE officials said at a news conference they want to reduce exposure while maintaining the value of the scan.
The pilot hospitals will test out the "GE Blueprint." It calls for staff education, refining or implementing new protocols for who should get the scans at what dose or if alternatives should be used first and possibly purchasing new equipment.
GE Healthcare markets low-dose technologies, including tools to enhance the quality of low-dose images and a system to measure and track patients' radiation doses. Intermountain currently uses both GE and other brands of scanners.
Intermountain has developed their own management tracking tool, which will be in place by the end of the summer.
Jeffrey Prince, chairman of Primary Children's medical imaging department, said children are most vulnerable to the risks of radiation exposure due to their growing cells and the longer amount of time for the radiation to cause problems.
The hospital has been working to reduce children's exposure for example, turning to ultrasound first to detect appendicitis instead of CT scan.
Tuesday's announcement means "we're going to be able to drive that dose down ever farther," he said.