The ALARA concept in pediatric cardiac catheterization: techniques and tactics for managing radiation dose

Pediatr Radiol. 2006 Sep;36 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):146-53. doi: 10.1007/s00247-006-0194-2.


The cardiac catheterization laboratory plays an important role in the management of children with congenital heart disease by not only enabling diagnosis but, in many cases, providing definitive therapy. The goal of the ALARA (As Low as Reasonably Achievable) concept as it applies to cardiac catheterization is to provide maximal diagnostic and therapeutic benefit while requiring the lowest possible radiation dose. A number of specific challenges unique to the setting of pediatric cardiac catheterization, such as higher heart rates, smaller cardiovascular structures, smaller body size, and wider variety of unusual anatomic variants with the potential need for relatively lengthy and complex studies, result in relatively high radiation doses (to the patient and, consequently, to laboratory personnel). In addition, the improved survival of patients with complex anatomy (e.g., palliated single ventricle anatomies) implies that many such children with chronic cardiac disease require frequent catheterizations within the first few years of life. These factors, coupled with the increased radiosensitivity of children and a longer lifespan ahead of them in which to possibly develop radiation-related sequelae, converge to create potentially ominous consequences. Attention to basic rules of radiation safety is, therefore, of tremendous importance in the pediatric cardiac catheterization laboratory. This review focuses on the importance of adequate planning of the study, optimizing image formation, management of fluoroscopy and cine angiography parameters, and the use of certain equipment features that might allow the cardiologist to lower the radiation dose without sacrificing image quality.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Burden
  • Cardiac Catheterization / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Environmental Exposure / prevention & control*
  • Fluoroscopy / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Pediatrics / methods*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Radiation Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Radiation Protection / methods*
  • Radiography, Interventional / adverse effects*
  • Radiometry / methods