ARRS: CT radiation education provides limited utility

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CHICAGO—Given a climate characterized by hefty concerns about radiation exposure, researchers at Northwestern University attempted to ascertain the impact of a CT radiation education program on the CT ordering patterns of clinical house staff, sharing the results Monday at the annual meeting of the American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS). They found that radiation education produced minimal impact on ordering patterns.

Although radiologists have many tools, including the Image Wisely campaign and Appropriateness Criteria, at their disposal to mitigate radiation exposure, clinicians—not radiologists—order CT studies, pointed out Jeanne Horowitz, MD, of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

In fact, clinicians are typically faced with patient questions and concerns. However, they are not trained in radiation exposure.

Horowitz designed a brief radiation education lecture and a follow-up survey to determine its impact on providers.

Ten urology residents and 11 orthopedic residents completed the 10-question survey two and four months after attending the training lecture.

Forty-eight percent of the residents affirmed that patients had asked them questions about radiation, and 70 to 90 percent were familiar with the issue, having heard discussions among colleagues or read about it in journals or other media.

Most of the residents, 71 percent, responded that their CT ordering patterns had remained constant over the course of the training prior to the CT lecture, and 90 percent claimed that ordering remained constant after the lecture, with 10 percent noting that their CT ordering had decreased since the lecture.

Thirty-eight percent of the residents used information presented in the lecture in subsequent discussions of CT risks and benefits with patients.

Horowitz acknowledged several limitations to the study: its small sample size, limited target audience, lack of a pre-test survey and the educational limits of a single lecture, while pointing to its value in patient education.