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Patient dose considerations in computed tomography examinations

Keywords: Computed tomography , Computed tomography dose index , Dose length product , Patient dose , Effective dose , Skin dose , Radiation risk

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Abstract:

Ionizing radiation is extensively used in medicine and its contribution to both diagnosis and therapy is undisputable. However, the use of ionizing radiation also involves a certain risk since it may cause damage to tissues and organs and trigger carcinogenesis. Computed tomography (CT) is currently one of the major contributors to the collective population radiation dose both because it is a relatively high dose examination and an increasing number of people are subjected to CT examinations many times during their lifetime. The evolution of CT scanner technology has greatly increased the clinical applications of CT and its availability throughout the world and made it a routine rather than a specialized examination. With the modern multislice CT scanners, fast volume scanning of the whole human body within less than 1 min is now feasible. Two dimensional images of superb quality can be reconstructed in every possible plane with respect to the patient axis (e.g. axial, sagital and coronal). Furthermore, three-dimensional images of all anatomic structures and organs can be produced with only minimal additional effort (e.g. skeleton, tracheobronchial tree, gastrointestinal system and cardiovascular system). All these applications, which are diagnostically valuable, also involve a significant radiation risk. Therefore, all medical professionals involved with CT, either as referring or examining medical doctors must be aware of the risks involved before they decide to prescribe or perform CT examinations. Ultimately, the final decision concerning justification for a prescribed CT examination lies upon the radiologist. In this paper, we summarize the basic information concerning the detrimental effects of ionizing radiation, as well as the CT dosimetry background. Furthermore, after a brief summary of the evolution of CT scanning, the current CT scanner technology and its special features with respect to patient doses are given in detail. Some numerical data is also given in order to comprehend the magnitude of the potential radiation risk involved in comparison with risk from exposure to natural background radiation levels.

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