Database of radiological incidents and related events--Johnston's Archive

Columbus radiotherapy accident, 1974-1976

compiled by Wm. Robert Johnston
last modified 23 September 2007

Date: 1974-1976 (22 month period)

Location: Riverside Methodist Hospital, Columbus, Ohio, USA

Type of event: radiotherapy accident


Continuing calibration of a cobalt-60 teletherapy unit was based on an erroneous decay curve, resulting in overexposures rising from 10% in the first 5 months to 50% 22 months after initial calibration. The medical physicist who did the calibration falsified documents to conceal the error. The problem was discovered by outside consultants brought in by the hospital to investigate apparent overexposures of some patients. Of 426 patients treated in the last 16 months before indentification of the problem, 300 died within one year of their pre-treatment cancer and 88 survived but had immediate severe complications related to the irradiated sites; 10 deaths have been attributed to overexposures.

Consequences: 10 fatalities, 78 injuries.


© 2004-2005, 2007 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 23 September 2007.
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