Brachytherapy patient safety events in an academic radiation medicine program

Brachytherapy. 2018 Jan-Feb;17(1):16-23. doi: 10.1016/j.brachy.2017.06.010. Epub 2017 Jul 27.


Purpose: To describe the incidence and type of brachytherapy patient safety events over 10 years in an academic brachytherapy program.

Methods and materials: Brachytherapy patient safety events reported between January 2007 and August 2016 were retrieved from the incident reporting system and reclassified using the recently developed National System for Incident Reporting in Radiation Treatment taxonomy. A multi-incident analysis was conducted to identify common themes and key learning points.

Results: During the study period, 3095 patients received 4967 brachytherapy fractions. An additional 179 patients had MR-guided prostate biopsies without treatment as part of an interventional research program. A total of 94 brachytherapy- or biopsy-related safety events (incidents, near misses, or programmatic hazards) were identified, corresponding to a rate of 2.8% of brachytherapy patients, 1.7% of brachytherapy fractions, and 3.4% of patients undergoing MR-guided prostate biopsy. Fifty-one (54%) events were classified as actual incidents, 29 (31%) as near misses, and 14 (15%) as programmatic hazards. Two events were associated with moderate acute medical harm or dosimetric severity, and two were associated with high dosimetric severity. Multi-incident analysis identified five high-risk activities or clinical scenarios as follows: (1) uncommon, low-volume or newly implemented brachytherapy procedures, (2) real-time MR-guided brachytherapy or biopsy procedures, (3) use of in-house devices or software, (4) manual data entry, and (5) patient scheduling and handoffs.

Conclusions: Brachytherapy is a safe treatment and associated with a low rate of patient safety events. Effective incident management is a key element of continuous quality improvement and patient safety in brachytherapy.

Keywords: Brachytherapy; Incident reporting; Patient safety; Radiation treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers / statistics & numerical data
  • Brachytherapy / adverse effects*
  • Brachytherapy / methods
  • Brachytherapy / standards
  • Humans
  • Image-Guided Biopsy / adverse effects
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Near Miss, Healthcare / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Safety*
  • Process Assessment, Health Care*
  • Prostate / diagnostic imaging
  • Prostate / pathology*
  • Quality Improvement
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Risk Management