Evaluation of the impact of a brief educational message on clinicians’ awareness of risks of ionising-radiation exposure in imaging investigations: a pilot pre-post intervention study

Ben Young, Jo Cranwell , Andrew Fogarty , Rob Skelly, Nigel Sturrock, Mark Norwood, Dominic Shaw, Sarah Lewis, Tessa E Langley, Peter Thurley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: In the context of increasing availability of computed tomography (CT) scans, judicious use of ionising radiation is a priority to minimise the risk of future health problems. Hence, education of clinicians on the risks and benefits of CT scans in the management of patients is important. Methods: An educational message about the associated lifetime cancer risk of a CT scan was added to all CT scan reports at a busy acute teaching hospital in the UK. An online multiple choice survey was completed by doctors before and after the intervention, assessing education and knowledge of the risks involved with exposure to ionising radiation. Results: Of 546 doctors contacted at baseline, 170 (31%) responded. Over a third (35%) of respondents had received no formal education on the risks of exposure to ionising radiation. Over a quarter (27%) underestimated (selected 1 in 30,000 or negligible lifetime cancer risk) the risk associated with a chest, abdomen and pelvis CT scan for a 20 year old female. Following exposure to the intervention for 1 year there was a statistically significant improvement in plausible estimates of risk from 68.3 to 82.2% of respondents (p < 0.001). There was no change in the proportion of doctors correctly identifying imaging modalities that do or do not involve ionising radiation. Conclusions: Training on the longterm risks associated with diagnostic radiation exposure is inadequate among hospital doctors. Exposure to a simple non-directional educational message for 1 year improved doctors' awareness of risks associated with CT scans. This demonstrates the potential of the approach to improve knowledge that could improve clinical practice. This approach is easily deliverable and may have applications in other areas of clinical medicine. The wider and longer term impact on radiation awareness is unknown, however, and there may be a need for regular mandatory training in the risks of radiation exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number841
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2019


  • Clinician education
  • Clinician knowledge
  • Computed tomography
  • Radiation protection
  • Radiation risks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy

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