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Inpatient Radiation Exposure In Patients With Spinal Trauma

E. Martin, M. Prasarn, Ellen Coyne, B. Giordano, T. Morgan, Per-Lennart Westessen, John N. Wright, G. Rechtine
Published 2013 · Medicine

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Abstract Context/objective Radiation exposure from medical imaging is an important patient safety consideration; however, patient exposure guidelines and information on cumulative inpatient exposure are lacking. Design/setting Trauma patients undergo numerous imaging studies, and spinal imaging confers a high effective dose; therefore, we examined cumulative effective radiation dose in patients hospitalized with spinal trauma. We hypothesized that people with spinal cord injury (SCI) would have higher exposures than those with spine fractures due to injury severity. Particpants/interventions Retrospective data were compiled for all patients with spine injuries admitted to a level I trauma center over a 2-year period. Outcome measures Injury severity score (ISS) and cumulative radiation exposure were then determined for these patients, including 406 patients with spinal fractures and 59 patients with SCI. Results Cumulative effective dose was 45 millisieverts (mSv) in SCI patients, compared to 38 mSv in spinal fracture patients (P = 0.01). Exposure was higher in patients with an ISS over 16 (P = 0.001). Mean exposure in both groups far exceeded the European annual occupational exposure maximum of 20 mSv. More than one-third of patients with SCI exceeded the US occupational maximum of 50 mSv. Conclusion Patients with SCI had significantly higher radiation exposure and ISS than those with spine fracture, but the effective dose was globally high. Dose did not correlate with injury severity for patients with SCI. While the benefits of imaging are clear, radiation exposure does involve risk and we urge practitioners to consider cumulative exposure when ordering diagnostic tests.
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