Nuclear cardiology practice and associated radiation doses in Europe: results of the IAEA Nuclear Cardiology Protocols Study (INCAPS) for the 27 European countries
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PURPOSE: Nuclear cardiology is widely used to diagnose coronary artery disease and to guide patient management, but data on current practices, radiation dose-related best practices, and radiation doses are scarce. To address these issues, the IAEA conducted a worldwide study of nuclear cardiology practice. We present the European subanalysis. METHODS: In March 2013, the IAEA invited laboratories across the world to document all SPECT and PET studies performed in one week. The data included age, gender, weight, radiopharmaceuticals, injected activities, camera type, positioning, hardware and software. Radiation effective dose was calculated for each patient. A quality score was defined for each laboratory as the number followed of eight predefined best practices with a bearing on radiation exposure (range of quality score 0 - 8). The participating European countries were assigned to regions (North, East, South, and West). Comparisons were performed between the four European regions and between Europe and the rest-of-the-world (RoW). RESULTS: Data on 2,381 European patients undergoing nuclear cardiology procedures in 102 laboratories in 27 countries were collected. A cardiac SPECT study was performed in 97.9 % of the patients, and a PET study in 2.1 %. The average effective dose of SPECT was 8.0 ± 3.4 mSv (RoW 11.4 ± 4.3 mSv; P < 0.001) and of PET was 2.6 ± 1.5 mSv (RoW 3.8 ± 2.5 mSv; P < 0.001). The mean effective doses of SPECT and PET differed between European regions (P < 0.001 and P = 0.002, respectively). The mean quality score was 6.2 ± 1.2, which was higher than the RoW score (5.0 ± 1.1; P < 0.001). Adherence to best practices did not differ significantly among the European regions (range 6 to 6.4; P = 0.73). Of the best practices, stress-only imaging and weight-adjusted dosing were the least commonly used. CONCLUSION: In Europe, the mean effective dose from nuclear cardiology is lower and the average quality score is higher than in the RoW. There is regional variation in effective dose in relation to the best practice quality score. A possible reason for the differences between Europe and the RoW could be the safety culture fostered by actions under the Euratom directives and the implementation of diagnostic reference levels. Stress-only imaging and weight-adjusted activity might be targets for optimization of European nuclear cardiology practice.
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