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n SA Journal of Radiology - Multi-detector computed tomography radiation doses in the follow-up of paediatric neurosurgery patients in KwaZulu-Natal : a dosimetric audit : original research
Background : Multi-detector computed tomography (MDCT) is the preferred modality for follow-up of paediatric neurosurgery patients. Serial imaging, however, has the disadvantage of an ionising radiation burden, which may be mitigated using the 'as low as reasonably achievable' (ALARA) principle.
Objectives : The primary objectives were to determine the radiation dose exposure in paediatric patients subjected to MDCT imaging following neurosurgery and to compare these values with references in current literature. Our secondary objective was to assess the relationship between radiation dose and clinical scenario.
Method : Retrospective descriptive data were collected from all paediatric postsurgical patients (n = 169) between the ages of 0 and 12 years who had their first followed-up scan in the year 2010 and were followed up for six months or less. Dose-length product (DLP) and current-time product were collected from the picture archiving and communication system. Demographic data including radiology reports were collected from the hospital information system. The effective doses (ED) were calculated from the corresponding DLP using age-adjusted conversion factors. For purposes of comparison with other studies, median dosimetric values were calculated and the children were grouped into three age ranges, namely younger than 3 years, 3-7 years and 8-12 years old.
Results : The highest median radiation doses were noted in patients being followed-up for intracranial abscesses (1183 mGy cm) in the 8-12 year age group, most of whom were female. The lowest radiation doses were for intracranial shunt follow-ups (447 mGy cm). Median values for DLP, ED and current-time product (mAs) were comparable to reference doses in all three age groups. However, our study showed a much broader distribution of values with higher upper limits relative to reference values. Indications for follow-up included shunts (n = 110; 65%), intracranial abscess (n = 31; 18%), subdural haematoma (n = 13; 8%) and tumour (n = 6; 4%). Head trauma only accounted for 5% of the cases.
Conclusion : The median radiation doses measured were comparable to values in literature and therefore deemed acceptable. The wider dose distributions of all three dosimetric parameters (DLP, ED and mAs) were attributed to inappropriate use of scan length and reference effective mAs. Adherence to recommended scan length protocols should be encouraged. Evaluation of the current use of reference effective mAs is needed and will require a separate study to determine the smallest value that can be used without compromising image quality. Further dose reductions could be achieved by omission of unenhanced scans in the follow-up of intracranial abscesses. It is recommended that diagnostic reference levels specific to South African clinical scenarios be developed to make local dosimetric audits more relevant.
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