Ramon Alfredo Siochi, WVU School of Medicine, Director of Medical Physics
(WVU Photo / Aira Burkhart)
Just as helicopter reporters use their ‘bird’s eye view’ to guide drivers around roadblocks safely, radiation oncologists treating a variety of cancers can use the new guidelines developed by a. University of West Virginia researcher to reduce data transfer errors and treat their patients more safely.
Ramon Alfredo Siochi—The director of medical physics at WVU — led a working group to help ensure the accuracy of the data that dictates radiation therapy to a cancer patient. The steps he and his colleagues recommended in their new report guard against medical errors in treatment that more than half of all cancer patients receive.
“The most common mistake that occurs in radiation oncology is the transfer of information from one system to another,” said Siochi, associate president of Medicine School Department of Radiation Oncology, mentionned. “This report gives you a good overview of how data flows through your department.
“How often do these accidents happen? I think one estimate I saw was that three out of 100 patients might have an error, but that doesn’t necessarily hurt them. Now, I don’t know what the incidence rate is for errors that are in quotes “almost failed” – when an error occurs before it hits the patient – but I imagine it is much higher. .
Siochi recently chaired the External Beam Treatment Data Transfer Quality Assurance Working Group, a division of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine.
The group was formed in response to media coverage of radiation overdoses caused by faulty data transfer.
“In 2010, it was reported in the New York Times that a patient [in a New York City hospital] was overdosed with radiation because the data was not transferred correctly from one system to another, ”Siochi said. “In short, the patient received a lethal dose of radiation to his head that went on for three days undetected. Now, that falls into the general class of many things that happen that were not standard practice. But it could have been avoided. “
Radiation therapy is used to treat a variety of cancers, including cancers of the lung, pancreas, prostate, breast, brain, and bladder. Depending on the type or stage of cancer, radiation can cure it, reduce it, or prevent it from coming back.
But as the complexity of radiation therapy has increased – making it possible to target cancers that would once have been too difficult to treat – the amount of data entering treatment machines has also increased. With more data, there are more possibilities for errors.
When Siochi first began practicing physical radiation oncology – in the 1990s – this data spoke of a residential tree-lined street more than the six-lane highway it evokes today.
“It was very analog,” he said. “We’re talking maybe 20 parameters that you would need to check on a plan, and you would put it all on a paper graph. But I did a calculation once – to get an order of magnitude – and now we’re talking about 100,000 parameters. It is simply impossible for a human to verify.
The group’s report, which has obtained the approval of the AAPM and the Scientific Council, makes this volume of parameters less overwhelming. It explains how data is transferred between the different systems used in radiation therapy and suggests ways in which medical physicists can test data integrity throughout the process, thus contributing to safer treatments.
Title: Report # 201 — American Association of Physicists in Medicine Task Force 201 Report: Quality Management of External Beam Therapy Data Transfer
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