Unindicated CT Series Result in Unnecessary Radiation Exposure for Patients

CHICAGO, Nov. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- A large proportion of patients who undergo abdominal/pelvic computed tomography (CT) receive unindicated and unnecessary additional image acquisition resulting in excess, avoidable radiation exposure, according to a study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

"It is the responsibility of all physicians who work with ionizing radiation to ensure that the dosage is as low as reasonably achievable without compromising the patient's well being," said Kristie Guite, M.D., radiology resident at the University of Wisconsin (UW) in Madison. "Our study found that this principle is not being followed in many practices."

A CT examination consists of imaging the patient using a CT scanner and sometimes involves the injection of an intravenous contrast agent. Imaging can be performed at multiple time points before and/or after the injection of the contrast material. Each image acquisition is referred to as a "series." Although having multiple series can be helpful for some conditions, they are not generally necessary.

Because it provides valuable diagnostic information, CT use has risen rapidly. In recent years, a number of reports have highlighted the increasing radiation exposure to patients through the use of medical imaging, particularly CT. While these reports have often focused on general and screening uses, little attention has been paid to radiation from additional series, including routine non-contrast or delayed-phase CT, which may or may not be indicated by the patient's condition but are sometimes performed so that nothing is overlooked.

To determine the frequency of unindicated additional scanning and the resultant excess radiation exposure to patients, the researchers reviewed the appropriateness and radiation dose of abdomen and pelvis CT exams for 500 patients performed at outside institutions and submitted to UW - Madison for interpretation. The patients ranged in age from nine months to 91 years, with most between 30 and 50 years old.
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