Cumulative exposure to ionizing radiation from diagnostic and therapeutic cardiac imaging procedures: A population-based analysis

Jersey Chen, Andrew J. Einstein, Reza Fazel, Harlan M. Krumholz, Yongfei Wang, Joseph S. Ross, Henry H. Ting, Nilay D. Shah, Khurram Nasir, Brahmajee K. Nallamothu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

163 Scopus citations


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to describe radiation exposure from cardiac imaging procedures over time in a general population. Background: Cardiac imaging procedures frequently expose patients to ionizing radiation, but their contribution to effective doses of radiation in the general population is unknown. Methods: We used administrative claims to identify cardiac imaging procedures performed from 2005 to 2007 in 952,420 nonelderly insured adults in 5 U.S. health care markets. We estimated 3-year cumulative effective doses of radiation in millisieverts from these procedures We then calculated population-based annual rates of radiation exposure to effective doses ≤3 mSv/year (background level of radiation from natural sources), >3 to 20 mSv/year, or >20 mSv/year (upper annual limit for occupational exposure averaged over 5 years). Results: A total of 90,121 (9.5%) individuals underwent at least 1 cardiac imaging procedure using radiation. Among patients who underwent <1 cardiac imaging procedures, the mean cumulative effective dose over 3 years was 23.1 mSv (range 1.5 to 543.7 mSv). Myocardial perfusion imaging accounted for 74% of the cumulative effective dose. Overall, 47.8% of cardiac imaging procedures were performed in physician offices; this proportion was higher for myocardial perfusion imaging (74.8%) and cardiac computed tomography studies (76.5%). The annual population-based rate of receiving an effective dose of >3 to 20 mSv/year was 89.0 per 1,000; and 3.3 per 1,000 for cumulative doses >20 mSv/year. Annual effective doses increased with age and were generally higher among men. Conclusions: Cardiac imaging procedures lead to substantial radiation exposure and effective doses for many patients in the U.S.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)702-711
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Aug 24 2010


  • CT
  • MPI
  • PCI
  • UHC
  • United Healthcare
  • computed tomography
  • myocardial perfusion imaging
  • percutaneous coronary intervention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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