Friday, April 8, 2011

Doctors discuss rapid increase in CT scans for children

This week, a study in the journal Radiology confirmed that over the last 14 years, the incidence of computed tomography, or CT, scans being ordered for children has increased fivefold. A CNN Health story about the study featured Children’s Chief of Emergency Medicine James Chamberlain, MD, who explains that "doctors are afraid of missing things, afraid of missing a diagnosis. They are afraid of malpractice and parents are more likely to advocate for their children than they were 10-15 years ago."

To help emergency physicians more effectively order CT when necessary, Dr. Chamberlain and his team collaborate with the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network (PECARN), to develop data-driven criteria for when a child requires a head CT. Similar criteria for abdominal CT, another common scan, are under way, according to the CNN story.

Nabile Safdar, MD, a pediatric radiologist at Children’s National and a principal investigator in the Sheikh Zayed Institute’s Bioengineering Initiative says that the Division of Diagnostic Imaging and Radiology at Children’s makes a concerted effort to reduce radiation exposure for children. “We ask: have they had a recent study? Can we get access to it? Are there other studies that don’t have radiation risks we can do instead?”

If a CT is necessary, radiology technologists at Children’s can reduce the necessary dosage of radiation based on age, size, weight, and the body part requiring the scan. Dr. Safdar frequently tells parents: “If your child doesn’t need the test, then any amount of radiation they receive from it is too much. But if they do need it, we can reduce the exposure as much as possible and still get the answers we need.”

Long term, investigators including Dr. Safdar and Raymond Sze, MD, Chief of Diagnostic Imaging and Radiology at Children’s National and also principal investigator in the Sheikh Zayed Institute, work side by side with bioengineers to find alternative imaging methods that will produce the same quality imaging currently offered by CT, or better. “That could mean new MR sequences, improved and new uses of ultrasound, or imaging modalities we haven’t even thought of yet,” says Dr. Safdar.

Read the CNN post.

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