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Infants Endure Unnecessary Radiation From X-Rays

After an infant endures a complicated labor or a birth injury, the doctor may recommend an X-ray or other scan to assess the harm caused. An X-ray can give the doctor a good picture of the injuries and allow the doctor to quickly determine the appropriate treatment in many cases.

Parents often willingly agree to an X-ray without understanding that proper care may not be provided in the X-ray room to protect their infant from excess radiation. At the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, one doctor uncovered that a disturbingly high number of infants had been over-radiated as a result of hospital mistakes made by professionals in the radiation department. It's likely that this same medical error occurs throughout the country.

Parents of birth injury victims endure enough anxiety and stress without the worry of additional, unnecessary radiation and all the illnesses and diseases that can be caused by excess radiation. This article provides information about over-radiation and explains how parents can work with their doctors to help prevent excess radiation.

Doctor Uncovers Serious Radiation Errors at SUNY Hospital

In a case that the SUNY whistleblower doctor called "mortifying," an innocent baby was radiated 10 separate times without any of the proper shielding, even though only a chest X-ray was ordered. This infant experienced full, head-to-toe radiation in 2007 although the doctor only wanted to examine the chest cavity.

Further compounding the situation, the baby was not properly shielded in other areas that did not require an X-ray. For the "poor, defenseless" baby, the harm caused by the X-ray technologists' serious errors may take years to uncover.

After identifying the incident, the SUNY doctor sent an e-mail to all of his colleagues, explaining that their youngest patients, usually premature babies or otherwise injured or ill infants, were subjected to excess radiation. The hospital's pediatric radiologist documented other mistakes, including:

  • Full-body X-rays were often completed on infants without regard to the need for a full-body scan.
  • Radiation levels on the CT scanners far exceeded permissible levels for infants.
  • The infants were "poorly positioned," which created unreadable images. Many infants needed additional scans and X-rays as a result.

The action by the SUNY doctor caused the medical center to reevaluate its radiation practices and stopped the "babygrams," the nickname for full body infant scans, but they did not report the issue to the New York medical board or other state agency that handles medical errors. The SUNY medical center is currently under investigation and the center's staff are being interviewed to understand the cause of the over-radiation.

Babies With Birth Injuries Are Likely to Require an X-Ray or Scan

A baby who is injured during birth is at an even greater risk for over-radiation. That's because birth injuries commonly require an X-ray to evaluate the injury. As the SUNY doctor noted, some babies even require multiple X-rays to get the position correct.

For example, a newborn who experiences the birth injury shoulder dystocia during labor, where the baby's shoulders become entrapped by the mother's pelvic bone, may suffer from a broken clavicle, fractured arm and other internal injuries. The doctor may order an X-ray to understand the extent of the baby's injuries. Not providing the proper protection during the X-ray or over-radiating the baby can cause serious harm.

Radiation exposure is known to damage the cells that were exposed and can lead to cancer. Burns, hair loss and an increased risk of cataracts are also symptoms of excess radiation exposure, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. To prevent over-radiation, parents of a child who experiences a traumatic birth injury should ask questions of the doctor to ensure that unnecessary X-rays or scans aren't ordered. Parents may also wish to request a second opinion if the baby's condition is not serious.

If a baby suffers from a birth injury as a result of medical malpractice, it is important to consult with a knowledgeable birth injury lawyer who can assess the full extent of the harm caused, including over-radiation.

Doctors and Medical Professionals Need to Exercise Greater Care

The Birth Injury Team, sponsored by the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, law firm of Silvers, Langsam & Weitzman, P.C., works on behalf of victims of birth injuries throughout the United States. For more information after a birth injury, contact the Birth Injury Team at 215-227-2727.

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