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Patients’ exposure to X-ray radiation falling

Ingrid Torjesen

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

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The doses of radiation delivered to patients undergoing X-rays are continuing to fall, but there is still some variation between the doses delivered by different hospitals, a survey by the Health Protection Agency has revealed.

For the past 25 years the Health Protection Agency and its predecessor – the National Radiological Protection Board – have surveyed radiation doses delivered to individual patients from X-rays in hospitals and dental surgeries.

The latest survey, which does not include doses from CT scanning (for which a separate set of results will be published later this year), covers 2006-10.

The reference doses were found to be an average 10 per cent lower than corresponding values in the previous (2005) review, and typically less than half the values of the original UK national reference doses that were derived from a survey in the mid-1980s.

Steve Ebdon-Jackson, head of the HPA’s medical radiation exposure department, said: “The UK has led the way in reducing the radiation doses of patients undergoing medical X-ray procedures.”

“This latest survey shows further reductions, even as new technology is adopted and examinations are developed to give even better diagnostic information.

“There remains, however, a variation in doses between hospitals for the same examinations but this is getting smaller.

“While we cannot afford to be complacent, it is evident that doses are still going in the right direction.”

The results of the latest survey are published in the report Doses to Patients from Radiographic and Fluoroscopic X-ray Imaging Procedures in the UK – 2010 Review and compared representative X-ray doses to patients in 320 hospitals (about a quarter of the total number of hospitals with diagnostic X-ray facilities), and more than 4,000 dental surgeries (about a third of the UK’s dental surgeries).

Each year about 15 per cent of the total radiation dose to the UK public comes from exposure to radiation used for medical diagnosis.

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