Standardization Protocols for CT Would Help Lower Dose, Increase Patient Safety

Last month, the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) hosted national Dose Summit that focused on the need for standardization protocols for CT scanning, which would help to ensure patient safety and lower associated radiation risks during CT exams.

According to an e! Science News article, summit attendees included some of the world’s leading experts in CT imaging. Organizer Cynthia McCollough, Ph.D., said the summit “achieved its goal of identifying several issues that need to be dealt with by the medical imaging community in order to address the safety concerns of patients at U.S. hospitals and clinics.”

This summit also made progress in “developing consensus CT protocols and making them freely available via the Internet to hospitals and clinics across the United States.” CT protocols (or “imaging parameters”) define how equipment is used for certain procedures.

In my opinion, standardization of protocols is a powerful way to lower CT dose. In a recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, adjacent hospitals in the San Francisco Bay area had a 13-fold difference in CT exam radiation dose for similar studies done for similar indications. The difference was all in the technique parameter selection.

With standardized protocols, groups of radiologists can get together to study how to do various types of CT exams with the lowest dose but yet still producing good diagnostic information. Once they agree on CT technique parameter selection with low dose as a goal, they can all use the same protocols and practices. This can dramatically lower the dose to a patient population – through standardization on best practices in CT.