Imaging Studies, Radiation and Children

Huffington Post—May 12, 2009

by Helene Pavlov, MD, FACR
Radiologist-in-Chief
Hospital for Special Surgery

Outdoor sports can frequently lead to injuries and fractures which can result in your child requiring a hospital emergency room or doctors' office visit. Many of these injuries will require imaging examinations to help identify the problem, confirm or exclude the extent of the injury, and also help to determine treatment.

Recent media coverage regarding high levels of ionizing radiation associated with frequent use of CT (computed tomography) scans has heightened fear and concern regarding imaging examinations.

In order to better understand important safety protocols, here are some key things to think about when your child is having an imaging examination:

  • Less is Best
    Keep in mind that your child is still growing and their body is more susceptible to the effects of ionizing radiation. The less ionizing radiation, the better.
  • Talk to the Doctor
    Before you agree to any imaging examination, ask what the doctor suspects and is there an alternative, non-ionizing radiation imaging examination, such as an MRI or an ultrasound that can be substituted.
  • Make Sure Shielding is Practiced
    Ensure that the radiology technologist shields your child and confines the area being exposed to the area in question. It is okay to ask if the technique being used is adjusted to the size of your child.
  • Inquire About Repeat Rates
    Inquire about the center's repeat rate, or how often does an image need to be repeated because of motion, positioning, or technique. If it is high, you may want to rethink where you are having your child's imaging done. It is also wise to inquire about the number of pediatric patients in their practice. The higher the percentage of children routinely seen in a practice, the more experience the team has with getting the optimal image on the first try with the least upset to the child or the parent.

If you follow the tips above and ask questions, you will be doing your best to protect your child from unnecessary radiation exposure.

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