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Med Phys. 2004 Mar;31(3):588-94.

Patient size and x-ray technique factors in head computed tomography examinations. I. Radiation doses.

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Department of Radiology, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York 13210, USA.


We investigated how patient age, size and composition, together with the choice of x-ray technique factors, affect radiation doses in head computed tomography (CT) examinations. Head size dimensions, cross-sectional areas, and mean Hounsfield unit (HU) values were obtained from head CT images of 127 patients. For radiation dosimetry purposes patients were modeled as uniform cylinders of water. Dose computations were performed for 18 x 7 mm sections, scanned at a constant 340 mAs, for x-ray tube voltages ranging from 80 to 140 kV. Values of mean section dose, energy imparted, and effective dose were computed for patients ranging from the newborn to adults. There was a rapid growth of head size over the first two years, followed by a more modest increase of head size until the age of 18 or so. Newborns have a mean HU value of about 50 that monotonically increases with age over the first two decades of life. Average adult A-P and lateral dimensions were 186+/-8 mm and 147+/-8 mm, respectively, with an average HU value of 209+/-40. An infant head was found to be equivalent to a water cylinder with a radius of approximately 60 mm, whereas an adult head had an equivalent radius 50% greater. Adult males head dimensions are about 5% larger than for females, and their average x-ray attenuation is approximately 20 HU greater. For adult examinations performed at 120 kV, typical values were 32 mGy for the mean section dose, 105 mJ for the total energy imparted, and 0.64 mSv for the effective dose. Increasing the x-ray tube voltage from 80 to 140 kV increases patient doses by about a factor of 5. For the same technique factors, mean section doses in infants are 35% higher than in adults. Energy imparted for adults is 50% higher than for infants, but infant effective doses are four times higher than for adults. CT doses need to take into account patient age, head size, and composition as well as the selected x-ray technique factors.

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