Background: Estimated radiation dose is important for assessing and communicating the risks and benefits of pediatric nuclear medicine studies. Radiation dose depends on the radiopharmaceutical, the administered activity, and patient factors such as age and size. Most radiation dose estimates for pediatric nuclear medicine have not been based on administered activities of radiopharmaceuticals recommended by established practice guidelines. The dosage card of the European Association of Nuclear Medicine (EANM) and the North American consensus guidelines each provide recommendations of administered activities of radiopharmaceuticals in children, but there are substantial differences between these two guidelines.
Objective: For 12 commonly performed pediatric nuclear medicine studies, two established pediatric radiopharmaceutical administration guidelines were used to calculate updated radiation dose estimates and to compare the radiation exposure resulting from the recommendations of each of the guidelines.
Materials and methods: Estimated radiation doses were calculated for 12 common procedures in pediatric nuclear medicine using administered activities recommended by the dosage card of the EANM (version 1.5.2008) and the 2010 North American consensus guidelines for radiopharmaceutical administered activities in pediatrics. Based on standard models and nominal age-based weights, radiation dose was estimated for typical patients at ages 1, 5, 10 and 15 years and adult. The resulting effective doses were compared, with differences greater than 20% considered significant.
Results: Following either the EANM dosage card or the 2010 North American guidelines, the highest effective doses occur with radiopharmaceuticals labeled with fluorine-18 and iodine-123. In 24% of cases, following the North American consensus guidelines would result in a substantially higher radiation dose. The guidelines of the EANM dosage card would lead to a substantially higher radiation dose in 39% of all cases, and in 62% of cases in which patients were age 5 years or younger.
Conclusion: For 12 commonly performed pediatric nuclear medicine studies, updated radiation dose estimates can guide efforts to reduce radiation exposure and provide current information for discussing radiation exposure and risk with referring physicians, patients and families. There can be substantial differences in radiation exposure for the same procedure, depending upon which of these two guidelines is followed. This discordance identifies opportunities for harmonization of the guidelines, which may lead to further reduction in nuclear medicine radiation doses in children.