7 Tips for Safer X-rays, CT Scans

If your child has ever had ongoing pain that couldn’t be diagnosed in a doctor’s office, or even been to the dentist, chances are he’s had an X-ray or CT scan. These technologies help doctors pinpoint injuries and diagnose illnesses by giving them an inside, in-depth look at organs, tissues and bones.

The downside is that these procedures expose patients to radiation.

“Medical imaging is a powerful tool for diagnosing problems, but similar to medications, there are specific indications, benefits, and even risks or side effects,” said Dr. Jeannie Kwon, a radiologist who practices at Children’s Medical Center.

Radiation adds up

Radiation has a cumulative effect, so kids who have multiple imaging scans are exposed to more radiation. Over time, this can increase a child’s risk for tumors, Dr. Kwon said.

Kids are more susceptible than adults to problems from radiation exposure, because the DNA in their growing bodies is more sensitive to any damage. Kids also have a longer lifetime in which to develop cancers associated with radiation exposure.

“While physicians should order diagnostic imaging with these risks in mind, when it comes to an individual child, the benefit of a single, medically indicated exam is still generally believed to outweigh potential risks,” Dr. Kwon said.

Equipment designed for adults = adult doses of radiation

What can you do to limit your child’s radiation exposure? Dr. Kwon has these tips.

  • Most importantly, choose pediatric radiology services over adult ones if possible. Children’s has staff that specializes in pediatric radiology. They are specifically trained to limit radiation. Children’s also uses equipment that’s made and calibrated for kids.
  • Talk to your pediatrician about the best way to diagnose your child’s condition. A CT scan is not always the best choice. Sometimes no imaging at all provides the best medical benefit.
  • Ask your physician if it’s possible to use a technique that doesn’t cause radiation exposure, such as an MRI or ultrasound.
  • Try to avoid having your child undergo repeat or duplicate imaging scans. This means keeping close tabs on your child’s medical record and the number of scans he or she has had.

What about dental X-rays?

Kids are also exposed to radiation during dental X-rays. However, the amount of radiation a child gets from a typical set of dental X-rays is only slightly more than what a person receives from background radiation on a typical day. Background radiation comes from rocks, soil, air, water and building materials.

Why do children need dental X-rays? Dr. Alton McWhorter, division director of the Dental Service at Children’s, says dental X-rays are an important tool for finding cavities between the teeth that a clinical exam can’t detect. By the time a dentist can see a cavity between the teeth, it has become large.

Dr. McWhorter has these tips for parents:

  • Ask your dentist to use a thyroid collar, along with the standard lead apron, to block X-rays up through the child’s neck.
  • Have dental X-rays taken only once a year if your child sees the dentist twice yearly for check-ups. An X-ray of the front of the teeth along with two side images should be sufficient.
  • If your child doesn’t have any cavities, X-rays may be needed only once every 18 months.

How much radiation is used in these exams?

Rocks, soil, building materials, air and water expose us to tiny amounts of radiation every day. This is called background radiation. The radiation used in X-rays and CT scans has been compared to background radiation we are exposed to daily. This comparison may be helpful in understanding relative radiation doses to the patient.

Background……………………………………………………..1 day
Chest X-ray (single)…………………………………………..1 day
Head CT………………………………………………………….up to 8 months
Abdominal CT…………………………………………………..up to 20 months
Source: Image Gently

Subscribe

Sign up for the latest information from Children's

Email:

, , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply