ESR News January 2016

Awareness of radiation dose and risk among health professionals

John Damilakis, Professor of Medical Physics

Literature review shows that knowledge of radiation dose and risk is poor among referring physicians, radiologists, radiographers, trainees and medical students (1-4). A recent study found that radiologists tend to underestimate patient radiation doses from common X-ray examinations (1). This is of serious concern, as it may lead to (a) provision of inaccurate information to patients about the risks associated with radiation doses and (b) acceptance of many unjustified X-ray procedures. Another very recent research work shows that radiographers also need to improve their knowledge in medical radiation protection (2). Most radiographers surveyed underestimated the doses of almost all X-ray examinations. It is encouraging, however, that young radiographers showed better knowledge compared with more experienced radiographers. A questionnaire was distributed to physicians, nurses and other personnel who use ionising radiation (3). This study shows that systematic training courses for medical personnel must be considered to increase awareness in medical radiation protection. A study was carried out in Australia to assess the radiation awareness amongst physicians in emergency departments (4). Most physicians surveyed reported that they would not be confident discussing radiogenic risks with patients and indicated the need for additional education.

The European Commission launched the MEDRAPET project (MEDical RAdiation Protection Education and Training, MEDRAPET) in December 2010 to improve the radiation protection education and training of medical professionals in the European Union (EU) member states. The results of this project showed that medical professions working with ionising radiation require educational and training platforms suitable for radiation protection teaching. These platforms are not generally available in the EU member states. On a national level, the main reasons for the absence of specific training schemes are financial, and there is lack of academic staff specialised in all aspects of medical radiation protection. Networks of excellent teaching centres should be created that will develop high level radiation protection courses to bring healthcare professionals to the required scientific level. An effort should be made to increase continuous professional development (CPD) courses in radiation protection education and training for all professions and specialties.

The EUTEMPE-RX (European Training and Education for Medical Physics Experts in Radiology) is a European Commission education and training project for Medical Physicists working in the field of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology. The aim is to ensure that candidates become knowledgeable about all current issues in radiation safety culture in healthcare centres and to make medical physics experts radiation protection advocates for patients. EUTEMPE modules include both face-to-face and online teaching. More information about EUTEMPE-RX can be found at



  1. Ramanathan S, Ryan J. Radiation awareness among radiology residents, technologists, fellows and staff: where do we stand? Insights Imaging 2015; 6:133-139
  2. Paolicchi E, Miniati F, Bastiani L et al. Assessment of radiation protection awareness and knowledge about radiological examination doses among Italian radiographers. Insights Imaging (in press)
  3. Szarmach A, Piskunowicz M, Swieton D et al. Radiation Safety awareness among medical staff. Pol J Radiol, 2015; 80:57-61
  4. Badawy MK, Sayakkarage D, Ozmen M. Awareness of radiation dose associated with common diagnostic procedures in emergency departments: A pilot study. AMJ 2015;8(11):338-344