Radiology efforts over past decade led to 20% drop in patient’s radiation dose, report shows

Radiology has undertaken many efforts to reduce patient exposure to radiation during imaging exams, and findings from a new report suggest those campaigns have made a significant impact.

The report, published Monday, Nov. 18, by the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, showed doses dropped by 15% to 20% among U.S. patients between 2006 and 2016. Per person, the estimated average dose fell from 2.92 millisievert (mSv) in 2006 to 2.16 mSv in 2016.

“We are pleased, but not surprised, that despite a steadily increasing and aging population, the medical radiation dose Americans receive is going down,” William T. Thorwarth Jr. MD, CEO of the American College of Radiology, said in a statement.

He went on to credit the drop in dose to radiology-led initiatives such as the Image Gently and Image Wisely campaigns, along with an increased utilization of the ACR Dose Index Registry and mandatory imaging center accreditation requirements.

The “Medical Radiation Exposure of Patients in the United States” report also revealed that CT scan dose—which made up 63% of total dose exposure in 2016, compared to 50% in 2006—remained largely stable on a per-person basis. This was despite a 20% increase in CT utilization over the 10-year study period.

Most other modalities showed a drop in effective dose, including nuclear medicine, which saw the largest drop from 25% in 2006 down to 15% in 2016. Radiography and fluoroscopy, cardiac interventional fluoroscopy and noncardiac interventional fluoroscopy all showed reduced per-patient dose numbers, the report authors found.

In addition to ACR campaigns, the investigators cited technological advances in hardware and protocol improvements as key contributors to ending the six-fold increase in radiation dose experienced between 1980 and 2006.

“Changes in technology as well as campaigns to increase dose awareness and reduce dose among the medical community and the public seem to be having the desired effect,” Mahadevappa Mahesh, PhD, co-chair of the report and professor of radiology and radiological science at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a statement. “These data show the medical community can continue to leverage the benefits of radiological procedures for patients while reducing dose.”