Teaching topics from the New England Journal of Medicine - Vol. 357, No. 22, November 29, 2007
Abdominal CT versus X-Ray
Organ doses of radiation from CT scanning are considerably larger than those from corresponding conventional radiography. A conventional anterior-posterior abdominal x-ray examination results in a dose to the stomach of approximately 0.25 mGy, which is at least 50 times smaller than the corresponding stomach dose from an abdominal CT scan. A posterior-anterior chest x-ray would result in a radiation dose to the lungs of 0.01 mGy and a lateral chest x-ray, of a radiation dose of 0.15 mGy to the lungs.
Morning Report Questions
Q: Why are more children undergoing diagnostic testing with CT scanning?
A: The major growth area in CT use for children has been for the presurgical diagnosis of appendicitis, for which CT appears to be both accurate and cost-effective — though usually no more so than ultrasonography. A considerable literature questions the use of CT, particularly as a primary diagnostic tool for acute appendicitis in children. A poll of pediatric radiologists (Slovis, Pediatr Radiol, 2002) suggested that perhaps one third of all CT studies could be replaced by alternative approaches or not performed at all.
Q: What is a gray (Gy) — the unit used to describe the radiation dose delivered by a CT scan?
A: Various measures are used to describe the radiation delivered by CT scanning, the most relevant being absorbed dose, effective dose, and CT dose index. The absorbed dose is the energy absorbed per unit of mass and is measured in grays (Gy). One gray equals 1 joule of radiation energy absorbed per kilogram.