Radiation Exposure in the Young Level 1 Trauma Patient: A Retrospective Review


Computed tomography (CT) has become an increasingly popular and powerful tool for clinicians managing trauma patients with life-threatening injuries, but the ramifications of increasing radiation burden on individual patients are not insignificant. This study examines a continuous series of 337 patients less than 40 years old admitted to a level 1 trauma center during a 4-month period. Primary outcome measures included number of scans; effective dose of radiation from radiographs and CT scans, respectively; and total effective dose from both sources over patients’ hospital stays. Several variables, including hospital length of stay, initial Glasgow Coma Scale score, and Injury Severity Score, correlated with greater radiation exposure. Blunt trauma victims were more prone to higher doses than those with penetrating or combined penetrating and blunt trauma. Location and mechanism of injury were also found to correlate with radiation exposure. Trauma patients as a group are exposed to high
levels of radiation from X-rays and CT scans, and CT scans contribute a very high proportion (91.3% š 11.7%) of that radiation. Certain subgroups of patients are at a particularly high risk of exposure, and greater attention to cumulative radiation dose should be paid to patients with the above mentioned risk factors. (Journal of Surgical Orthopaedic Advances 24(1):57–63, 2015)
Key words: computed tomography, quantifying radiation, radiation exposure, trauma evaluation, trauma imaging

Michael B. Gottschalk, MD; Laura L. Bellaire, MD; and Thomas Moore, MD