AAPM/RSNA Physics Tutorial for Residents: Topics in CT. Radiation dose in CT

Radiographics. Nov-Dec 2002;22(6):1541-53. doi: 10.1148/rg.226025128.


This article describes basic radiation dose concepts as well as those specifically developed to describe the radiation dose from computed tomography (CT). Basic concepts of radiation dose are reviewed, including exposure, absorbed dose, and effective dose. Radiation dose from CT demonstrates variations within the scan plane and along the z axis because of its unique geometry and usage. Several CT-specific dose descriptors have been developed: the Multiple Scan Average Dose descriptor, the Computed Tomography Dose Index (CTDI) and its variations (CTDI(100), CTDI(w), CTDI(vol)), and the dose-length product. Factors that affect radiation dose from CT include the beam energy, tube current-time product, pitch, collimation, patient size, and dose reduction options. Methods of reducing the radiation dose to a patient from CT include reducing the milliampere-seconds value, increasing the pitch, varying the milliampere-seconds value according to patient size, and reducing the beam energy. The effective dose from CT can be estimated by using Monte Carlo methods to simulate CT of a mathematical patient model, by estimating the energy imparted to the body region being scanned, or by using conversion factors for general anatomic regions. Issues related to radiation dose from CT are being addressed by the Society for Pediatric Radiology, the American Association of Physicists in Medicine, the American College of Radiology, and the Center for Devices and Radiological Health of the Food and Drug Administration.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Physical Phenomena
  • Physics
  • Radiation Dosage*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*