Comparison of 12 surrogates to characterize CT radiation risk across a clinical population.

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Quantifying radiation burden is essential for justification, optimization, and personalization of CT procedures and can be characterized by a variety of risk surrogates inducing different radiological risk reflections. This study compared how twelve such metrics can characterize risk across patient populations.


This study included 1394 CT examinations (abdominopelvic and chest). Organ doses were calculated using Monte Carlo methods. The following risk surrogates were considered: volume computed tomography dose index (CTDIvol), dose-length product (DLP), size-specific dose estimate (SSDE), DLP-based effective dose (EDk ), dose to a defining organ (ODD), effective dose and risk index based on organ doses (EDOD, RI), and risk index for a 20-year-old patient (RIrp). The last three metrics were also calculated for a reference ICRP-110 model (ODD,0, ED0, and RI0). Lastly, motivated by the ICRP, an adjusted-effective dose was calculated as [Formula: see text]. A linear regression was applied to assess each metric's dependency on RI. The results were characterized in terms of risk sensitivity index (RSI) and risk differentiability index (RDI).


The analysis reported significant differences between the metrics with EDr showing the best concordance with RI in terms of RSI and RDI. Across all metrics and protocols, RSI ranged between 0.37 (SSDE) and 1.29 (RI0); RDI ranged between 0.39 (EDk) and 0.01 (EDr) cancers × 103patients × 100 mGy.


Different risk surrogates lead to different population risk characterizations. EDr exhibited a close characterization of population risk, also showing the best differentiability. Care should be exercised in drawing risk predictions from unrepresentative risk metrics applied to a population.

Key points

• Radiation risk characterization in CT populations is strongly affected by the surrogate used to describe it. • Different risk surrogates can lead to different characterization of population risk. • Healthcare professionals should exercise care in ascribing an implicit risk to factors that do not closely reflect risk.





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Publication Info

Ria, Francesco, Wanyi Fu, Jocelyn Hoye, W Paul Segars, Anuj J Kapadia and Ehsan Samei (2021). Comparison of 12 surrogates to characterize CT radiation risk across a clinical population. European radiology. 10.1007/s00330-021-07753-9 Retrieved from

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Francesco Ria

Assistant Professor of Radiology

Dr. Francesco Ria is a medical physicist and he serves as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Radiology. Francesco has an extensive expertise in the assessment of procedure performances in radiology. In particular, his research activities focus on the simultaneous evaluation of radiation dose and image quality in vivo in computed tomography providing a comprehensive evaluation of radiological exams. Moreover, Francesco is developing and investigating novel mathematical models that, uniquely in the radiology field, can incorporate a comprehensive and quantitative risk-to-benefit assessment of the procedures; he is continuing to apply his expertise towards the definition of new patient specific risk metrics, and in the assessment of image quality in vivo also using state-of-the-art imaging technology, such as photon counting computed tomography scanners, and machine learning reconstruction algorithms.

Dr. Ria is a member of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine task group 392 (Investigation and Quality Control of Automatic Exposure Control System in CT), of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine Public Education working group (WGATE), and of the Italian Association of Medical Physics task group Dose Monitoring in Diagnostic Imaging.


William Paul Segars

Professor in Radiology

Our current research involves the use of computer-generated phantoms and simulation techniques to investigate and optimize medical imaging systems and methods. Medical imaging simulation involves virtual experiments carried out entirely on the computer using computational models for the patients as well as the imaging devices. Simulation is a powerful tool for characterizing, evaluating, and optimizing medical imaging systems. A vital aspect of simulation is to have realistic models of the subject's anatomy as well as accurate models for the physics of the imaging process. Without this, the results of the simulation may not be indicative of what would occur in actual clinical studies and would, therefore, have limited practical value. We are leading the development of realistic simulation tools for use toward human and small animal imaging research.

These tools have a wide variety of applications in many different imaging modalities to investigate the effects of anatomical, physiological, physical, and instrumentational factors on medical imaging and to research new image acquisition strategies, image processing and reconstruction methods, and image visualization and interpretation techniques. We are currently applying them to the field of x-ray CT. The motivation for this work is the lack of sufficiently rigorous methods for optimizing the image quality and radiation dose in x-ray CT to the clinical needs of a given procedure. The danger of unnecessary radiation exposure from CT applications, especially for pediatrics, is just now being addressed. Optimization is essential in order for new and emerging CT applications to be truly useful and not represent a danger to the patient. Given the relatively high radiation doses required of current CT systems, thorough optimization is unlikely to ever be done in live patients. It would be prohibitively expensive to fabricate physical phantoms to simulate a realistic range of patient sizes and clinical needs especially when physiologic motion needs to be considered. The only practical approach to the optimization problem is through the use of realistic computer simulation tools developed in our work.

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