Radiation Errors from Stereotactic Radiosurgery

Stereotactic radiosurgery is designed to use minute amounts of radiation to treat tiny tumors, like those in the brain and spinal cord. The New York Times is continuing its series on radiation errors in the nation’s hospitals, and has found that this highly sophisticated and complex therapy too has been linked to serious errors.

Stereotactic radiosurgery typically requires highly expensive equipment called a Gamma Knife, a complicated piece of medical equipment. Many hospitals and facilities can’t afford the extra expenses involved in purchasing the equipment and setting aside a specific room for it. Several hospitals have begun to use linear accelerators instead. These devices are already designed to deliver targeted amounts of radiation to specific spots in the body. The linear accelerators are equipped with a cone attachment that allows them to emit the required amount of high-intensity radiation to the exact site of the tumor without affecting the surrounding tissue.

As expected, configuration errors with the cones have led to radiation spilling outside the cones and onto surrounding tissue. In one Illinois hospital, three persons, including a 50-year-old-woman, received excessive radiation, before a technician discovered that the cone had been attached improperly. One of those women now lives in a near-vegetative state as a result of these radiation-related injuries.

As with other types of radiation injuries that Indiana product liability lawyers have been concerned about, errors involving stereotactic radiosurgery too have involved improper product design that lacks safeguards, poor staff training at hospitals, and facilities that are not equipped to handle these highly sophisticated techniques.

The Food and Drug Administration is really out of its depth when it comes to regulating radiation-emitting devices. Indiana injury attorneys seem to notice the same companies –Varian Medical Systems, for instance – that are frequently involved in instances of excessive radiation. The FDA needs to regulate these devices so they are safe to use for all, and so patients don’t have to feel like they’re playing Russian roulette every time they undergo a radiation treatment.