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Research Letter
Feb 11, 2013

Patient Knowledge and Understanding of Radiation From Diagnostic Imaging

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Radiology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle.

JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173(3):239-241. doi:10.1001/2013.jamainternmed.1013

Health risk from medical radiation exposure has generated controversy in recent lay and professional publications.1-3 Data examining what patients know about radiation from commonly performed imaging, such as computed tomography (CT) and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), are limited. The purpose of this study was to survey patient knowledge and understanding of radiation from CT and SPECT scans.

This prospective survey study took place at a large academic medical center. From February through December 2011, randomly selected patients presenting for nonurgent outpatient CT and cardiac SPECT scans were surveyed.

The 16-question survey contained 2 sections (eFigure). Section 1 assessed knowledge and perceptions about health risks and benefits from CT or cardiac SPECT. The last question of section 1 asked patients if the scan they were about to undergo exposed their body to radiation. Only if patients responded “yes” were they instructed to continue to section 2, answering 5 additional questions assessing knowledge and perceptions of radiation.