Report: U.S. exposure to medical radiation skyrockets

By staff writers

April 19, 2007 -- U.S. residents are being exposed to nearly six times more radiation from medical devices compared to 1980 levels, according to preliminary results of a new study issued this week by the National Council on Radiation Protection & Measurements (NCRP).

The study found that the annual per capita exposure to medical radiation in the U.S. was 3.2 millisieverts (mSv) in 2006, up from 0.54 mSv in 1980. Over the same period, the collective annual population medical radiation dose in the U.S. grew by 7.5 times, from a total of 124,000 sieverts to 930,000 sieverts.

The preliminary findings were presented on April 16 at the NCRP's annual meeting in Arlington, VA, by Dr. Fred A. Mettler Jr. Mettler is professor emeritus in the department of radiology at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

Most of the growth was attributed to the increased use of medical imaging procedures that employ radiation, such as CT and nuclear medicine, according to Mettler. In the case of CT, the number of CT scans conducted in the U.S. has grown from 18.3 million exams in 1993 to 62 million scans in 2006. CT accounted for 45% of the U.S. population's collective medical radiation dose, even though it made up only 12% of all medical radiation procedures done in the U.S.

In presenting the findings, Mettler said that most physicians are not educated enough on the risks associated with increased medical radiation. He believes that radiation dose can be significantly decreased without reducing diagnostic accuracy.

The findings are part of a study that was described as the first large-scale review of U.S. population radiation exposure since 1989, and are based on data from multiple sources in the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system, as well as from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), state radiation programs, large hospitals, and claims data from large national employer healthcare plans. The final report is scheduled to be completed in 2008.

By staff writers
April 19, 2007

ACR issues white paper on radiation dose, April 19, 2007

Strategies for reducing 'dose creep' in digital x-ray, April 11, 2007

ACC study: Dual-source cardiac CT delivers acceptable radiation dose, March 28, 2007

Radiation dose slashed in 64-slice coronary CTA, February 15, 2007

CT overranging an important but hidden radiation source, February 1, 2007

Copyright © 2007


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