• English
  • العربية
  • 中文
  • Français
  • Русский
  • Español

You are here

Radiation Protection of Patients in the New Era of Medical Imaging


As medical imaging continues to quickly evolve, radiation protection experts gathered at the IAEA to discuss how to best keep patients safe in this changing medical landscape.

Every five years there is a new imaging technology using ionizing radiation in the market. These advances in diagnostic and interventional radiology, nuclear medicine, image guided radiotherapy and radiopharmaceutical therapy must be balanced with new measures in patient radiation protection, as highlighted by experts at a recent IAEA meeting.

“These trends impose new challenges in radiation protection of patients. A shorter time frame will be needed for upgrading guidance on imaging and training materials, and we will also need to focus on fostering cooperation between health and radiation protection authorities,” said meeting organizer Vesna Gershan, an IAEA Radiation Protection Specialist.

Fifty participants from 21 IAEA member countries and 10 international organizations, along with radiation protection experts and invited speakers, gathered in early March at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, to share knowledge and experience on how radiation protection measures need to adapt to the technological advances in this new era of medical imaging.

Meeting participants agreed that with the current pace of technological developments, there is an increasing urgency to update referral guidelines, optimization mechanisms, protocols and regulations. They said that the trend for using artificial intelligence in medical imaging and therapy, which can help to reduce patient radiation doses, calls for quality assurance programmes, interdisciplinary collaboration, and consideration of ethics, patient privacy and data security.

The new era in medical imaging

Between 2009 and 2018 about 4.2 billion medical radiological examinations were performed each year, and this number continues to grow. For example, more computed tomography (CT) scanners are being installed in clinics around the world to replace conventional X ray procedures, while in nuclear medicine therapy, there is increasing use of radionuclides for treating metastatic cancer cells.

An IAEA survey carried out in early 2024 involving member countries from Europe, North and South America, Africa and Asia identified that new imaging technology needs on average 10 to 15 years after its introduction to the market to become widespread in clinical practice globally. However, disparities between countries in gradually using these technologies can result in different needs in training and education, as well as in quality assurance, which poses a challenge to the field.

Madan Rehani, Director of Global Outreach for Radiation Protection at Massachusetts General Hospital, USA, who chaired the meeting said: “This meeting highlighted the need for governance for the proper, authorized use of the latest technologies. For example, while some newer imaging technologies have helped to achieve better image quality for obese patients by removing restrictions on X ray production rate, this responsibility has been transferred to medical professionals.”

These topics will be addressed further at the IAEA International Conference on Radiation Protection in Medicine: X Ray Vision, 8–12 December 2025, Vienna, Austria.

Read the full report of the technical meeting here.

Stay in touch