L.A. hospital under fire for radiation overdoses

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — Cedars-Sinai Medical Center of Los Angeles is facing lawsuits for giving patients heavy overdoses of radiation.

The hospital, the Jewish community’s flagship symbol and charity, administered eight times the normal dose of radiation to 206 mostly elderly patients during computed tomography brain perfusion scans used to diagnose strokes. The overdoses went undetected for 18 months.

Hospital spokesmen have acknowledged that in February 2008 staff members reset a CT scanner, overriding the manufacturer’s instructions, to raise the radiation doses and enable improved analysis of blood flow to brain tissues.

It was not until August of this year, when an overdosed patient called in to report that he was losing tufts of hair following the scan, that the hospital became aware of the mistake. After contacting the rest of the 206 patients, Cedars-Sinai learned that 40 percent of the group also suffered hair losses.

Overdosed patients face increased risk of brain tumors, which develop very slowly. National experts interviewed by the Los Angeles Times generally agreed that because the median age of the affected patients is 70, they are likely to die of other causes.

Attorneys for the affected patients have filed class action and individual suits against Cedars-Sinai.

Thomas Priselac, executive director of the medical center, which is frequently in the news for its Hollywood celebrity clientele, apologized to the affected patients and said remedial steps had been taken to prevent a future incident.

The incident is another black eye for the highly rated Jewish hospital. In an earlier foul-up, in November 2007, the newborn twins of actor Dennis Quaid were given 1,000 times the intended dose of blood thinner.

The California Department of Public Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are joining in an investigation of the incident.
 

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