You would think that premature babies would be given the utmost protection, especially in a hospital. But it looks like the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center has done just the opposite. State inspectors have found that at least 27 infants’ have been irradiated beyond the chest area without proper shielding. Astoundingly, some premature infants were over-radiated more than once.
Back in February, The New York Times broke a story about how premature infants were regularly being unnecessarily exposed to radiation back in 2007 at Downstate Medical Center. Hospital officials quickly said they would stop this practice, but when state inspectors went into the hospital, they discovered the practice was again being performed.
The inspection reports that “neonatal imaging was not provided in accordance with physician orders and the facility policies and procedures.”
Some infants were given full body scans when only a chest x-ray was ordered. In one case, a baby born prematurely at 26 weeks received five chest X-rays over a period of two months and the radiation was not properly limited to the chest area.
Another baby who was ordered to have a chest X-ray only had received an x-ray that included the head, left arm, right arm, chest and abdomen.
Exposure to radiation can have harmful, long-lasting effects, especially in children:
Children are particularly vulnerable to radiation’s effects because their cells divide quickly and because they face an ever-increasing number of radiological procedures over their lifetime as new medical uses are found for radiation. X-rays are invaluable in diagnosing internal complications. But minimizing exposure is important because most scientists believe the effects of radiation are cumulative, meaning the more radiation one receives, the greater the chances of developing cancer later in life.
The New York Times also uncovered internal emails from Dr. Salvatore J. A. Sclafani, the radiology chairman:
He wrote that he was “mortified” to find that the same premature infant had received about 10 whole-body X-rays when only a simple chest X-ray had been ordered. “Full, unabashed, total irradiation of a neonate,” Dr. Sclafani said, adding, “This poor, defenseless baby.”
Since the disturbing findings at this particular hospital, the state health department is considering spot checks of other hospitals.