Are Some Children Undergoing Unnecessary CT Scans?

According to a new study by UC Davis Health System, not all children who sustain minor blunt head trauma need to undergo CT scans. Yet, about half of those who do end up in hospital ERs for this type of injury get a head computed tomography scan. More about the study can be found in the June 2011 issue of Pediatrics.

Our Washington DC personal injury law firm represents children and adults who suffered unnecessary injury or health complications because of medical negligence. If you believe that unnecessary exposure to radiation from a medical device, do not hesitate to contact us and ask for your free consultation.

Researchers evaluated 40,113 under age 18 who went to 1 of 25 emergency rooms between June 2004 and September 2006. 5,433 of the kids were observed before medical staff decided to give them a CT scan. What researchers found is that not only was CT use was lower in the children who were observed, but also this did not affect the quality of care that they received. 3,744 of these kids went home without a scan and only 26 of them came back to have one. Of these children, four had traumatic results and just one had a clinically important injury that required hospitalization for two nights.

The fact that not all children with a minor head injury needs to undergo a head scan to get treated properly is good news, seeing as exposure to radiation through CT scans does carry some health risks—especially for children. A single CT scan to a child’s brain provides a dose of radiation equal to about six months to a year of “background radiation.” Radiation can increase the chances of a child developing cancer later in life.

Obviously some head injuries are serious enough to warrant a CT scan, but it is also important that children not be exposed to radiation from this type of test unnecessarily. It might be a good idea to ask your child’s doctor whether there are other medical imaging tests that can be used that wouldn’t expose your son/daughter to radiation.

UC Davis study examines need for CT scans in children, The Sacramento Bee, May 10, 2011
Observation After Head Injury Cuts Kids’ CT Scans, WebMD, May 9, 2011

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