OBJECTIVES: To benchmark regional standard practice for paediatric cranial CT-procedures in terms of radiation dose and acquisition parameters.
METHODS: Paediatric cranial CT-data were retrospectively collected during a 1-year period, in 3 different hospitals of the same country. A dose tracking system was used to automatically gather information. Dose (CTDI and DLP), scan length, amount of retakes and demographic data were stratified by age and clinical indication; appropriate use of child-specific protocols was assessed.
RESULTS: In total, 296 paediatric cranial CT-procedures were collected. Although the median dose of each hospital was below national and international diagnostic reference level (DRL) for all age categories, statistically significant (p-value < 0.001) dose differences among hospitals were observed. The hospital with lowest dose levels showed smallest dose variability and used age-stratified protocols for standardizing paediatric head exams. Erroneous selection of adult protocols for children still occurred, mostly in the oldest age-group.
CONCLUSION: Even though all hospitals complied with national and international DRLs, dose tracking and benchmarking showed that further dose optimization and standardization is possible by using age-stratified protocols for paediatric cranial CT. Moreover, having a dose tracking system revealed that adult protocols are still applied for paediatric CT, a practice that must be avoided.
KEY POINTS: • Significant differences were observed in the delivered dose between age-groups and hospitals. • Using age-adapted scanning protocols gives a nearly linear dose increase. • Sharing dose-data can be a trigger for hospitals to reduce dose levels.