Tag Archives: radiation

Unmade bed, and URTI

9 May
Unmade and URTI J

Unmade bed and URTI

When I contract an URTI (Upper Respiratory Tract Infection) like a cold or ‘flu all I want to do is retreat between the sheets and stay there till the thing has passed over! (Australian slang calls it a “wog” – a word that has nothing to do with another derogatory term which I wouldn’t use.)

Recently I’ve been reading about Tammy Rae Carland, a photographer who makes pictures of her recently vacated unmade bed-sheets and publishes them as artworks. She references; Félix Gonzáles-Torres, and of course the famous Tracey Emin’s “My Bed”; a very controversial work.

This morning I took photos of my unmade bed-sheets to include in today’s alphabetical picture. It contains two superimposed photos of crumpled white sheets, filtered to produce an opalescent colour like mother-of-pearl, interspersed with the X-ray of a child with an URTI.

There’s a medical fashion for taking lots of X-rays, and although there’s no evidence to justify taking an X-ray for an URTI , many doctors do. The increased medical-based radiation particularly to children, with rapidly dividing cells, makes them more susceptible to damage from X-rays. The largest radiation exposure to our modern population (other than natural background) is from medical sources. The population dose has doubled since the 1980s. On a global scale, human exposure from nuclear accidents like Chernobyl pale into insignificance.

Radiology Colleges are quick to point out that at least some of the increase is due to improved medical practice, which is true, and the benefit outweighs the risks. However some of the increase is a protective mechanism by doctors who practice defensive medicine – doing what lawyers demand. Because they are terrified of legal action for negligence they cover all bases. Further, in places where doctors have a financial investment in the institution in which they work, increased investigation brings a financial reward.

There is a Hippocratic precept “…to abstain from doing harm” later distilled into the Latin phrase Primum non nocere – “First do no harm” It is the basis for all medical ethics. One sometimes wonders how contemporary practice fits that ethical framework.


Chest 141; Radiation

27 Mar
Chest 141J

Chest 141; Radiation 

I have worked with radiation most of my career and seen the best and the worst it can be associated with. Medical radiation is the greatest existing source to the general population, even greater than the fallout from previous nuclear accidents and bombs – though that radiation was high and localised.

There is an interesting correlation between rates of radiological investigations for medical conditions and medical litigation. As litigation has increased, doctors have ordered more and more X-rays in order to “protect” themselves against allegations that they have not taken enough care. Unfortunately discrimination between those cases that do not need investigation for medical reasons because the result will not change management, and those cases that lawyers think should “always” have an X-ray, is poor.

In two consultant positions in two very different countries I saw roughly 15% increase in investigation rates year by year, with a significant jump when one of the medical defence societies went bust. It would be interesting to see, in 50 years time, what the impact of this increase has been on the general population, meanwhile defensive medicine continues to be practiced.

This image reminded me of pictures I have seen of a mushroom cloud – Hiroshima – or the radioactive plume rising from Chernobyl. All clouds have silver linings they say, except for mushroom shaped ones that have a lining of Iridium, and Strontium 90. Where does it all go? Chernobyl will tell you – into the surrounding area, or blown across borders into neighbouring countries.

The X-ray I chose to include, although it could have been any one at all, was a post-treatment study from a lady who had received successful radiation treatment for lymphoma.

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