Unintended and accidental medical radiation exposures in radiology: Guidelines on investigation and prevention

C. J. Martin, J. Vassileva, E. Vano, M. Mahesh, S. Ebdon-Jackson, K. H. Ng, D. P. Frush, R. Loose, J. Damilakis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


This paper sets out guidelines for managing radiation exposure incidents involving patients in diagnostic and interventional radiology. The work is based on collation of experiences from representatives of international and national organizations for radiologists, medical physicists, radiographers, regulators, and equipment manufacturers, derived from an International Atomic Energy Agency Technical Meeting. More serious overexposures can result in skin doses high enough to produce tissue reactions, in interventional procedures and computed tomography, most notably from perfusion studies. A major factor involved has been deficiencies in training of staff in operation of equipment and optimization techniques. The use of checklists and time outs before procedures commence, and dose alerts when critical levels are reached during procedures, can provide safeguards to reduce the risks of these effects occurring. However, unintended and accidental overexposures resulting in relatively small additional doses can take place in any diagnostic or interventional x-ray procedure and it is important to learn from errors that occur, as these may lead to increased risks of stochastic effects. Such events may involve the wrong examinations, procedural errors, or equipment faults. Guidance is given on prevention, investigation, and dose calculation for radiology exposure incidents within healthcare facilities. Responsibilities should be clearly set out in formal policies, and procedures should be in place to ensure that root causes are identified and deficiencies addressed. When an overexposure of a patient or an unintended exposure of a foetus occurs, the foetal, organ, skin, and/or effective dose may be estimated from exposure data. When doses are very low, generic values for the examination may be sufficient, but a full assessment of doses to all exposed organs and tissues may sometimes be required. The use of general terminology to describe risks from stochastic effects is recommended rather than the calculation of numerical values, as these are misleading when applied to individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)883-906
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Radiological Protection
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • computed tomography
  • digital radiography
  • effective dose
  • foetal exposure
  • interventional cardiology
  • interventional radiology
  • radiation incidents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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