Diagnostic radiation exposure in pediatric trauma patients

Marissa A. Brunetti, Mahadevappa Mahesh, Rosemary Nabaweesi, Paul Locke, Susan Ziegfeld, Robert Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Background: The amount of imaging studies performed for disease diagnosis has been rapidly increasing. We examined the amount of radiation exposure that pediatric trauma patients receive because they are an at-risk population. Our hypothesis was that pediatric trauma patients are exposed to high levels of radiation during a single hospital visit. Methods:Retrospective review of children who presented to Johns Hopkins Pediatric Trauma Center from July 1, 2004, to June 30, 2005. Radiographic studies were recorded for each patient and doses were calculated to give a total effective dose of radiation. All radiographic studies that each child received during evaluation, including any associated hospital admission, were included. Results:A total of 945 children were evaluated during the study year. A total of 719 children were included in the analysis. Mean age was 7.8 (±4.6) years. Four thousand six hundred three radiographic studies were performed; 1,457 were computed tomography (CT) studies (31.7%). Average radiation dose was 12.8 (±12) mSv. We found that while CT accounted for only 31.7% of the radiologic studies performed, it accounted for 91% of the total radiation dose. Mean dose for admitted children was 17.9 (±13.8) mSv. Mean dose for discharged children was 8.4 (±7.8) mSv (p < 0.0001). Burn injuries had the lowest radiation dose [1.2 (±2.6) mSv], whereas motor vehicle collision victims had the highest dose [18.8 (±14.7) mSv]. Conclusion:When the use of radiologic imaging is considered essential, cumulative radiation exposure can be high. In young children with relatively long life spans, the benefit of each imaging study and the cumulative radiation dose should be weighed against the long-term risks of increased exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E24-E28
JournalJournal of Trauma
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • Computed tomography
  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Pediatric
  • Radiation
  • Wounds and injuries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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