Emergency Radiology

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 21–27 | Cite as

Radiation overexposure from repeated CT scans in young adults with acute abdominal pain

  • Massimo TonoliniEmail author
  • Elena Valconi
  • Angelo Vanzulli
  • Roberto Bianco
Original Article



The purpose of this study is to assess the dose of ionizing radiation caused by repeated CT scans performed to investigate non-traumatic acute abdominal conditions in young adults.


Over 26 months, we collected a cohort of patients aged 18 to 45 years who were subject to at least one urgent contrast-enhanced abdomen/pelvis CT. Patients affected with urolithiasis, HIV infection, tumors, and vascular and chronic inflammatory bowel diseases were excluded. All abdomen/pelvis CT scans carried out at our institution for over 6 years were retrospectively tallied, and the effective doses (EDs) were computed by multiplying the total dose-length product by the appropriate anatomic conversion factor. Examples of age- and gender-adjusted lifetime attributable cancer risks were estimated using the online calculator Radiation Risk Assessment Tool.


Sixty-one patients (average age 34.2 years) received multiple CT scans (average 2.7 scans per patient). ED largely varied among single- and multi-phase acquisitions. Cumulative ED ranged from 14.1 mSv to a maximum of 436.6 mSv (average 70.1 mSv per person). Twenty-five patients (40.9%) received more than 50 mSv, 84% of them within year; 12 (19.7%) and 4 (6.6%) patients received more than 100 and 200 mSv, respectively.


Young adults are subject to repetitive CT imaging to monitor urogenital, intestinal, hepatobiliary, and pancreatic disorders during non-operative management to detect and follow up abdominal emergencies requiring surgical intervention and to assess post-surgical complications. In this population, the risk of accruing high cumulative radiation exposure should be considered.


Computed tomography (CT) Acute abdomen Young adults Ionizing radiation Effective dose 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© American Society of Emergency Radiology 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Radiology“Luigi Sacco” University HospitalMilanItaly
  2. 2.Department of Diagnostic and Interventional RadiologyNiguarda Ca’ Granda HospitalMilanItaly

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