Existing Quality Assurance checks 'help minimise radiotherapy errors'

4 August 2011

The combination of existing Quality Assurance (QA) procedures carried out on cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy treatment systematically reduces possible errors according to research from Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.

Research conducted in association with scientists from Washington University in St Louis attempted to methodically evaluate the effectiveness of the 12 QA checks currently available to clinicians in a report unveiled yesterday (August 3rd) at a joint symposium for Canadian and US physicists in Vancouver.

Examining data from 290 out of 4,000 'near miss' events where treatment almost failed, the study found that a combination of half of the existing QA techniques were enough to have prevented more than 90 per cent of the potential incidents.

Many of these were found to be the most basic and least technical measures, such as simply reviewing patients' checklists, "assuming it's used consistently correctly, which it often isn't," commented assistant professor Eric Ford, who will present the QA-check effectiveness study's findings..

"While clinicians in this field may be familiar with these quality assurance procedures, they may not have appreciated how effective they are in combination," the professor added.

In April, Cancer Research UK called on the government to develop an action plan for radiotherapy management following a National Audit Office report expressing concerns over decisions on high-value radiotherapy equipment in the NHS.

Posted by Philip Briggs

1 Ford, Eric, et. al., "A Quantification of the Effectiveness of Standard QA Measures at Preventing Errors in Radiation Therapy and the Promise of in Vivo EPID-Based Portal Dosimetry" Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and Washington University School of Medicine. Wednesday August 3rd 2011.

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