End stage renal disease (ESRD) patients are exposed to the risk of ionizing radiation during repeated imaging studies. The variability in diagnostic imaging policies and the accompanying radiation doses across various renal units is still unknown. We studied this variability at the centre level and quantified the associated radiation doses at the patient level.
Fourteen Italian nephrology departments enrolled 739 patients on haemodialysis and 486 kidney transplant patients. The details of the radiological procedures performed over one year were recorded. The effective doses and organ doses of radiation were estimated for each patient using standardized methods to convert exposure parameters into effective and organ doses RESULTS: Computed tomography (CT) was the major contributor (> 77%) to ionizing radiation exposure. Among the haemodialysis and kidney transplant patients, 15% and 6% were in the high (≥ 20 mSv per year) radiation dose groups, respectively. In haemodialysis patients, the most exposed organs were the liver (16 mSv), the kidney (15 mSv) and the stomach (14 mSv), while the uterus (6.2 mSv), the lung (5.7 mSv) and the liver (5.5 mSv) were the most exposed in kidney transplant patients. The average cumulative effective dose (CED) of ionizing radiation among centres in this study was highly variable both in haemodialysis (from 6.4 to 18.8 mSv per patient-year; p = 0.018) and even more so in kidney transplant (from 0.6 to 13.7 mSv per patient-year; p = 0.002) patients.
Radiation exposure attributable to medical imaging is high in distinct subgroups of haemodialysis and transplant patients. Furthermore, there is high inter-centre variability in radiation exposure, suggesting that nephrology units have substantially different clinical policies for the application of diagnostic imaging studies.