Monday, June 10, 2013

Study points to the importance of radiation-dose reduction in pediatric CT scans

Specialist radiologists interpret imaging exams


Webster Center video

Department of Radiology Chairman Emeritus James H. Thrall, MD, discusses our decade-long commitment to reducing CT radiation to as low a level as possible for each patient.

Watch now >

According to a study published online by JAMA Pediatrics on June 10, the increased use of computed tomography (CT) scans in pediatric patients may increase their future cancer risk. The authors found that the volume of CT scans in pediatric patients nearly doubled between 1995 and 2005, projecting 4,870 future cancers caused by 4 million annual pediatric CT scans. They concluded that dose-reduction strategies could dramatically reduce the number of these cancers.

"For every pediatric CT, parents should understand the risks and benefits specific to their child," said Dushyant Sahani, MD, director of CT at Mass General Imaging. "The amount of radiation exposure from x-rays, CT scans and other imaging studies should always be limited to the minimum necessary to answer the diagnostic question."

CT scans are most frequently used in children to diagnose medical conditions or following trauma to critical body parts. Timely diagnosis is often crucial to treat life-threatening problems and limit complications including neurologic deficits and infections.

"It is truly a blessing that imaging studies like CT scans provide more clarity on a patient’s medical condition, allowing the treating physician to triage appropriate care management decisions," said Dr. Sahani. He added that if an imaging scan is clinically warranted, the immediate benefits outweigh a very small long-term risk.

Recent studies by Mass General researchers, including a study published in the May issue of Radiology, also make the case that risks from medical conditions often far outweigh the risks of radiation.

When a June 2012 study in The Lancet reported a slightly higher chance of brain cancer and leukemia in children who get several CT scans, Dr. Sahani addressed parents concerns in an online Q&A on safety and pediatric CT scans.

If faced with medical imaging for their child, the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging recommends that parents ask

  • What is the name of the medical imaging test?
  • Does the test use radiation to create the image?
  • Are there other tests or actions (such as watching the child for several hours) that could be substituted for the CT scan?
  • Will my child receive a "kid-sized" radiation dose?
  • Have the facility and radiology professionals done all they can to lower radiation dose as much as possible to answer the doctor's question?

Read about Mass General's commitment to radiation dose reduction and the many ways we work to minimize exposure for both our adult and pediatric patients.



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