Providers may underestimate radiation dose from CT

While physicians, technologists and radiologists were aware of the radiation risk from CT scans, many failed to correctly identify the actual radiation dose from those scans, according to a new survey published in the Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences.

Out of 308 completed surveys, 97 percent of radiologists, 76 percent of technologists and 73 percent of physicians correctly answered that there is an increased risk of cancer from performing an abdominal-pelvic CT.

However, when asked to select “the most appropriate estimate of abdominal-pelvic CT in terms of chest X-ray equivalents,” only 28 percent of radiologists, 22 percent of technologists and 18 percent of physicians surveyed answered correctly.

“Unfortunately, healthcare providers including physicians, radiologists, and medical imaging technologists are often not aware of radiation doses for common CT scans," David Leswick, MD, of the University of Saskatchewan wrote in his conclusion. "It is important for healthcare professionals (including referring physicians, radiologists, and technologists) to be aware of radiation dose levels and risks from imaging tests for several reasons, including the ability to weigh the risks and benefits of tests, counsel patients on relevant risks, optimize protocols to minimize radiation dose, and select appropriate protocols to minimize radiation dose."

Leswick said it was more concerning that a number of respondents underestimated the radiation dose. More than  half, 52 percent, of physicians, 37 percent of technologists and 22 percent of radiologists underestimated the dose level, which Leswick said may lead to minimization of CT risks.

Confusion about radiation appears to be most pronounced among physicians. For example, 20 percent of physicians surveyed incorrectly believed MRIs use radiation.

On the positive side, the vast majority of respondents wanted to be given more information on radiation, with 93 percent saying they’d like to receive radiation dose feedback when considering an order for a CT scan.