UCSF Receives Grant for Research Aimed at Limiting CT Patient Radiation Dose Exposure

The University of California’s (UC) Center for Health Quality and Innovation (CHQI) has awarded several grants to UC faculty and staff with the goal of improving health care delivery in California.

Our project, “Standardization and Optimization of Computed Tomography Patient Radiation Dose Across the University of California Medical Centers,” will receive $750,000 of direct grant support spread over three years. The focus of the project is to standardize and optimize the doses used for CT across the five UC medical centers, and will engage radiologists, radiology technologists and physicists across sites.

The utilization of CT has increased dramatically over the last two decades, and CT is considered one of the most important and impactful advances in medicine. However, CT exams also deliver substantially higher radiation than conventional X-rays. Moreover, CT radiation doses vary highly. Over the last few years there have been several episodes reported extensively in the media where patients undergoing CT have experienced radiation overdoses, or where patients have received doses higher than medically necessary. Consensus is growing both within academia and the broader community that efforts are needed to ensure that patients receive the lowest dose possible to produce the necessary medical benefit.

Efforts cannot proceed to improve the safety of CT without more information quantifying current exposures and without coordinated efforts to lower doses and improve education and training around CT. The aims of this project are to fill large gaps in our understanding of radiation associated with CT and will inform and enhance efforts to create quality standards and guidelines across the University of California Medical Campuses. This work will have broad implications for the larger health care community, as well.

As part of our project, we will create a collaborative working group across the UC Medical Centers, including physicists, radiologists and radiology technologists from each campus to begin regular meetings to standardize and reduce the doses used for CT. We will optimize, standardize and audit CT imaging protocols across UC campuses; we will create several educational forums for UC Medical Center physicians, physicists and technologists on radiation dose optimization; we will assess the impact of our strategies of lowering radiation dose by assessing the dose delivered to consecutive patients before and after our interventions; and we will develop a strategy of reporting CT radiation dose information in the medical record.

We believe the project will have an immediate and clear impact on the quality and safety of health care with in the UC Medical Centers. Further, we believe we can leverage our extensive experience in this area to enable our collaborative group to take the lead in generating guidelines for CT imaging that will have broad implications within California and Nationally, as we plan on rapidly disseminating the results of this project both within the UC Medical system, as well as more broadly in the health care community. This funding will permit the UC Radiology Departments to begin meaningful collaborations that will permit ongoing and broad based quality improvement efforts in the future.

For more information on how UCSF is working towards better, safer radiation practices, click here.