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BMJ Open. 2012; 2(5): e001425.
Published online 2012 September 20. doi:  10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001425
PMCID: PMC3467637

International Atomic Energy Agency study with referring physicians on patient radiation exposure and its tracking: a prospective survey using a web-based questionnaire



To assess the following themes among referring physicians: (A) importance of acquiring information about previous diagnostic exposures; (B) knowledge about radiation doses involved, familiarity with radiation units and, age-related radiosensitivity; (C) opinion on whether patients should be provided information about radiation dose and (D) self-assessment of appropriateness of referrals.


A prospective survey using a web-based questionnaire.


International survey among referring physicians.


Referring physicians from 28 countries.

Main outcome measures

Knowledge, opinion and practice of the four themes of the survey.


All 728 responses from 28 countries (52.3% from developed and 47.7% from developing countries) indicated that while the vast majority (71.7%) of physicians feel that being aware of history of CT scans would always or mostly lead them to a better decision on referring patients for CT scans, only 43.4% often enquire about it. The majority of referring physicians (60.5%) stated that having a system that provides quick information about patient exposure history would be useful. The knowledge about radiation doses involved is poor, as only one-third (34.7%) of respondents chose the correct option of the number of chest x-rays with equivalence of a CT scan. In total, 70.9% of physicians stated that they do not feel uncomfortable when patients ask about radiation risk from CT scans they prescribe. Most physicians (85.6%) assessed that they have rarely prescribed CT scans of no clinical use in patient management.


This first ever multinational survey among referring physicians from 28 countries indicates support for a system that provides radiation exposure history of the patient, demonstrates poor knowledge about radiation doses, supports radiation risk communication with patients and mandatory provisions for justification of a CT examination.

Keywords: Medical Physics

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