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Large variation in radiation dose for routine abdomen CT: reasons for excess and easy tips for reduction.

  • Smith-Bindman, Rebecca
  • Kang, Taewoon
  • Lee, Ryan
  • MacLeod, Fiona
  • Kasraie, Nima
  • Neill, Rebecca
  • Pike, Pavlina
  • Roehm, Jodi
  • Schindera, Sebastian
  • Chung, Robert
  • Delman, Bradley
  • Jeukens, Cécile
  • Starkey, L
  • Szczykutowicz, Timothy
  • Stewart, Carly
  • Das, Marco
  • Duong, Phuong-Anh
  • Cervantes, Luisa
  • Lamba, Ramit
  • Chu, Philip
  • And 1 more
Publication Date
Apr 01, 2024
eScholarship - University of California
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OBJECTIVE: To characterize the use and impact of radiation dose reduction techniques in actual practice for routine abdomen CT. METHODS: We retrospectively analyzed consecutive routine abdomen CT scans in adults from a large dose registry, contributed by 95 hospitals and imaging facilities. Grouping exams into deciles by, first, patient size, and second, size-adjusted dose length product (DLP), we summarized dose and technical parameters and estimated which parameters contributed most to between-protocols dose variation. Lastly, we modeled the total population dose if all protocols with mean size-adjusted DLP above 433 or 645 mGy-cm were reduced to these thresholds. RESULTS: A total of 748,846 CTs were performed using 1033 unique protocols. When sorted by patient size, patients with larger abdominal diameters had increased dose and effective mAs (milliampere seconds), even after adjusting for patient size. When sorted by size-adjusted dose, patients in the highest versus the lowest decile in size-adjusted DLP received 6.4 times the average dose (1680 vs 265 mGy-cm) even though diameter was no different (312 vs 309 mm). Effective mAs was 2.1-fold higher, unadjusted CTDIvol 2.9-fold, and phase 2.5-fold for patients in the highest versus lowest size-adjusted DLP decile. There was virtually no change in kV (kilovolt). Automatic exposure control was widely used to modulate mAs, whereas kV modulation was rare. Phase was the strongest driver of between-protocols variation. Broad adoption of optimized protocols could result in total population dose reductions of 18.6-40%. CONCLUSION: There are large variations in radiation doses for routine abdomen CT unrelated to patient size. Modification of kV and single-phase scanning could result in substantial dose reduction. CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Radiation dose-optimization techniques for routine abdomen CT are routinely under-utilized leading to higher doses than needed. Greater modification of technical parameters and number of phases could result in substantial reduction in radiation exposure to patients. KEY POINTS: • Based on an analysis of 748,846 routine abdomen CT scans in adults, radiation doses varied tremendously across patients of the same size and optimization techniques were routinely under-utilized. • The difference in observed dose was due to variation in technical parameters and phase count. Automatic exposure control was commonly used to modify effective mAs, whereas kV was rarely adjusted for patient size. Routine abdomen CT should be performed using a single phase, yet multi-phase was common. • kV modulation by patient size and restriction to a single phase for routine abdomen indications could result in substantial reduction in radiation doses using well-established dose optimization approaches.

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