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A practical approach to prioritise among optimisation tasks in X-ray imaging: introducing the 4-bit concept

Journal article
Authors Jonny Hansson
Patrik Sund
Pernilla Jonasson
Lars Gunnar Månsson
Magnus Båth
Published in Radiation protection dosimetry
Volume 139
Issue 1-3
Pages 393-399
ISSN 1742-3406
Publication year 2010
Published at Institute of Clinical Sciences, Department of Radiation Physics
Pages 393-399
Language en
Subject categories Radiological physics, Radiology


According to European and national legislation, as well as international recommendations, X-ray examinations shall be optimised. However, with limited resources and hundreds of different types of X-ray examinations, it may be difficult to prioritise among the optimisation tasks at a radiology department. This work is focused on describing a method that can be used to determine the order of which the examinations should be optimised. In the Medical Exposure Directive from 1997, the European Commission prescribes the content of an optimisation process in relation to medical exposure. A reasonable interpretation of the directive is that the assurance of medical purpose for a justified examination is superior to the need of decreased radiation dose. This was used as a basis for developing a method for prioritisation among optimisation tasks. For each examination type, the following four yes/no questions are raised: (i) Is the present image quality unacceptable? (ii) Is the examination of particular importance? (iii) Is the radiation dose suspiciously high? (iv) Are there special dose level concerns, e.g. diagnostic reference levels? Arguing that a positive response to any of the four questions results in the examination being higher prioritised than otherwise and that the questions are labelled in order of decreasing relevance, it can be shown that the resulting flow chart, determining the order of which the examinations should be optimised, can be described by a 4-bit binary scale. In this way, each examination type is given a number from 0 to 15, a higher number corresponding to the examination being prioritised higher in the optimisation work. The method was applied to a general radiology department and resulted in a well-discriminated distribution of examinations prioritised for optimisation tasks. In conclusion, taking into account both medical outcome and potential risk, the proposed method can be used to determine the order in which examinations at a radiology department should be optimised.

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