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Class Action Patients Exposed to Radiation sue Cedars-Sinai

More than 200 patients exposed to high levels of radiation at Cedars-Sinai hospital filed suit, and attorneys say more plaintiffs could be added as word of the lawsuit spreads.

The president of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center – where patients were recently exposed to eight times the recommended radiation after undergoing brain tests related to a stroke – issued a statement saying he regretted the circumstances that led to the mistake.

State public health officials, meanwhile, are investigating the incident, which exposed patients to high radiation during an 18-month period beginning in February 2008.

State officials are also urging all hospitals to review their guidelines for operating CT scanners – which emit radiation, but usually in doses that don’t put patients at risk.

The Cedars-Sinai machines were found to have been manually manipulated to allow for better pictures, which resulted in the elevated radiation levels, according to state investigators and hospital officials.

Dr. Barry Pressman, chair of Department of Imaging at Cedars-Sinai, said the radiation was higher than expected, but similar to amounts patients might receive if undergoing other medical procedures, such as an angioplasty.

The only patient named in the lawsuit, Trevor Rees of Los Angeles, underwent a CT scan at Cedars-Sinai on Dec. 22, 2008, and a second scan two days later.

In the following days and weeks, he experienced hair loss, flaking of the scalp, reddening and burns, and other symptoms of radiation exposure, according to the lawsuit seeking class-action status filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The plaintiff claims hospital officials contacted him nine months later to ask if he had experienced any side effects, but said nothing of the elevated radiation.

By this time, officials with the California Department of Public Health had discovered the problem and launched an investigation.

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