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Coronary Artery Calcification Screening

Estimated Radiation Dose and Cancer Risk

Multidetector computed tomography has been proposed as a tool for routine screening for coronary artery calcification in asymptomatic individuals. As proposed, such screening could involve tens of millions of individuals, but detailed estimates of radiation doses and potential risk of radiation-induced cancer are not currently available. We estimated organ-specific radiation doses and associated cancer risks from coronary artery calcification screening with multidetector computed tomography according to patient age, frequency of screening, and scan protocol.
Nuclear Imaging


Radiation doses delivered to adult patients were calculated from a range of available protocols using Monte Carlo radiation transport. Radiation risk models, derived using data from Japanese atomic bomb survivors and medically exposed cohorts, were
used to estimate the excess lifetime risk of radiation induced cancer.


The radiation dose from a single coronary artery calcification computed tomographic scan varied more than 10-fold (effective dose range, 0.8-10.5 mSv) depending
on the protocol. In general, higher radiation doses were associated with higher x-ray tube current, higher tube potential, spiral scanning with low pitch, and retrospective
gating. The wide dose variation also resulted in wide variation in estimated radiation-induced cancer risk. Assuming screening every 5 years from the age of 45 to 75 years for men and 55 to 75 years for women, the estimated excess lifetime cancer risk using the median dose of 2.3 mSv was 42 cases per 100 000 men (range, 14-200 cases) and 62 cases per 100 000 women (range, 21-300 cases).


These radiation risk estimates can be compared with potential benefits from screening, when such estimates are available. Doses and therefore risks can be minimized by the use of optimized protocols.


Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(13):1188-1194

Notes to editor

One important drawback and limitation of cardiac CT remains the need of radiation. Also when evaluating the coronary calcium score, this has to be taken into consideration. All efforts should be made to minimize radiation exposure, as well as to be very accurate in patient selection.
The present study summarizes current knowledge and data.
The content of this article reflects the personal opinion of the author/s and is not necessarily the official position of the European Society of Cardiology.

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