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Radiology/Desperate to know radiation dose I had

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QUESTION: Hello,

I am writing with a desperate question - the uncertainty and fear has come to rule my life and have caused me to fall into severe depression.Please help!

I need to find the exact radiation dose the technician used during a CT Chest ANGIO PE I had almost 10 years ago (in 2005). I went to the hospital and they retrieved my medical records including the report and the images placed on a CD, but there doesn't seem to be a place on the images where the amount of radiation dose is specified.

There are some numbers and letters there but I don't know how to interpret them.

In 2005, I was 33 years old and had just had a C section a week before. Post C-section I weighed probably around 170 lbs at 5'7".
I developed a pain in the rib/chest/abdomen area and I went to the ER where the dr. wanted to exclude a "blood clot". For 10 years, I was largely unaware of how much radiation that test could have had...until now.

I just learned a test like this delivers quite a lot of radiation - I read 15mSv is standard...but I do not know for sure how much mine was.
Is there a specific number I should look at on the image that would indicate the dose I received?
I called the hospital and tried to speak with a radiologist but I could not get through.

Please tell me how I can find out the exact dose I received? I could also send a copy of the images.

Thank you so much for your help!

Cristina Stephens

ANSWER: Hello, Cristina.

Radiation dose is not always included on the images, in the radiology report or on a CD of the exam. Unfortunately, it's quite possible that your records from 2005 have been purged. US regulations require an imaging center to retain their records for only 7 years. So there may be no way to tell you exactly what dose you received.

Here is a website with more information about radiation dose: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/safety/?pg=sfty_xray

When your physician ordered the CT exam, he determined that the benefits of having the exam outweighed the risks involved in receiving that radiation dose. According to the table on the article above, your estimate of 15mSv is about right if your study was done both with and without contrast. This is comparable to only 4 years of natural background radiation. The additional lifetime risk of fatal cancer from that examination is Low to Moderate.

I know it's hard not to worry, but your risks of cancer are still quite low. There is nothing you can do about the exposure you have received. The best thing you can do is try to minimize all future radiation exposure and ask to be shielded if you do need to have an x-ray.

Hope this helps,
Delia


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Is it possible that it was only done WITH contrast?

I know for sure they did it WITH contrast (it says W/ contrast on the report) but I don't know if this means it was also done WITHOUT contrast.

If it was only WITH contrast, could the dose be lower than 15mSv?

Answer
Hi, Cristina.

Yes, it is possible that your scan was done with contrast only. In my experience, though, contrasted studies are most often done both with and without. Comparing the first scan without contrast to the one with contrast is frequently helpful to the radiologist.

If you have a copy of the report, it may indicate whether scans were done both with and without contrast. Also, if you have a CD of the images, you will see two nearly identical sets of images. If you need to know for certain, I recommend you show the images or report to your doctor, an X-ray tech or a radiologist and ask for clarification.

And yes, if your scan was done with contrast only, your radiation dose would be about 7 - 8 mSv.

Hope this helps,
Delia

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Delia White

Expertise

I am not qualified to interpret diagnostic imaging or to diagnose disease. Please consult a physician for that information. I am the photographer. I can tell you what to expect during most MRI, CT and X-ray procedures.

Experience

I now have more than 30 years experience in diagnostic imaging. My specialty is MRI. I am also very familiar with CT and the way we used to take x-rays (everything's digital now)!

Education/Credentials
I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Radiologic Technology.

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