Thursday, July 7, 2011

CT scans -- helpful or potentially harmful to your child?

You rush your child to the ER with stomach pains and the first thing they want to do is send him in for a CT scan. What should you do?

That's a good question. And it should be followed by some more questions -- directed at the doctor who is ordering the scan. Since you can't plan your emergencies, it's a good idea to write these down and slip them into your wallet in case you ever need them. Look the doctor straight in the eye and ask:
  • Will you be reducing the radiation dose according to my child's size? It is essential that the facility has a method of reducing the dose for children and teenagers.
  • Are there any non-radiation types of tests that could be run first? Your goal is to lessen the risk of radiation exposure for your child ... sometimes it is absolutely necessary, and sometimes it is not.
  • Is your facility accredited with the American College of Radiology or the Intersocietal Commission for Accreditation?
  • What kind of credentials do the imaging technologists have?
  • Do you have a pediatric radiologist on staff?
  • Will I be able to go into the scanner room with my child?
Perhaps these seem like unnecessary questions in light of a doubled over kiddo writhing in pain. However, radiation exposure from imaging tests is a real concern, especially for children and teenagers.

According to Virginia C. Calega, MD, vice president of Medical Management and Policy at Highmark, "Children are at greater risk of developing future cancers than adults from a given dose of ionizing radiation. It's because their young bodies are more radiosensitive and because they have more remaining years of life, during which radiation-induced cancers could develop. Also, children's bodies are growing, which means their cells are dividing more rapidly than in adults. This results in a greater opportunity for radiation to disrupt the growing process."

Especially susceptible is the abdomen because the digestive organs are more sensitive to the radiation than is the brain. Of course, the above questions need to be asked in the case of a PET scan or a nuclear stress test (myocardial perfusion imaging) as well.

Granted, there may be times your little one will need to be scanned. Just be sure it is absolutely necessary and that reduced levels of radiation are used.

Then pray ...

Keeping your little ones safe whenever possible,



  1. Thanks for sharing this Hana. These are great questions to ask. I haven't had to deal with this yet (knock on wood), but when I do I'll be more educated about what to do and things to ask about. I completely agree that radiation should be avoided whenever possible, and it makes me wonder if non-verbal kiddos are more likely to get a CT than a verbal one simply because the doctors can't tell what's going on (where the pain is, how high it is, etc.).

  2. If I am ever in this situation, I think I will be giving you a call to remind me of all these questions to ask!!

  3. Bethany, if you're ever in that situation, it will be with my grandbaby and I'll be in a panic and won't remember the questions! Print them out and stick it in your diaper bag!!

  4. You're welcome, Liz. You might be right about the younger kids and/or the non-verbal ones. When I was a kid, my dad would not let the dentist x-ray our teeth, unless absolutely necessary. Lots of people made fun of him for that, but years later, discovered he was right!


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