Docs aim to reduce radiation doses for children

August 1st, 2010 - 6:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 1 (IANS) Medical professionals have been taking measures to reduce children’s exposure to radiation during diagnostic tests such as CT scans as their changing bodies and brains are especially sensitive.
And because children have longer to live than adults, they’re more likely to experience delayed effects of radiation exposure, notably a small potential increased risk of cancer.

That’s not a cause to shun the tests, medical experts agree. Medical imaging is an extraordinary tool that allows doctors to make diagnoses, select optimal treatments and save lives, they say.

But it does warrant caution, and medical professionals have been adopting measures to reduce children’s radiation exposure, reports the Chicago Tribune.

These include adjusting CT scanner settings for smaller bodies, imaging only those areas under medical investigation and using other tests, such as ultrasounds and MRIs, whenever possible.

“We still have a way to go in terms of optimising these examinations,” said Donald Frush, chief of paediatric radiology at Duke University Hospital, acknowledging the shortcomings in the medical field.

About seven million CT scans are administered to children every year; the number is expanding nearly 10 percent annually, according to a 2008 review of radiation risks associated with CT scans for kids in Current Opinion in Paediatrics.

Almost one-third of the tests are given to children in their first decade of life.

A case in point is that of Ferdousi Dawood’s 10-year-old daughter Safa, whose headaches were excruciating, and prescription medicines and natural remedies had failed to make a difference.

A doctor at Children’s Memorial Hospital recommended a CT scan to peer inside the child’s brain. Dawood was concerned about the radiation and what it might mean to the girl’s development.

Safa had complained of feeling “water in her head” for months before her family doctor ordered the CT scan, her mother said. The pain was so bad that the girl sometimes would lay her head on a table and weep.

The day of the scan, her mother said she was determined to ask Safa’s doctor how much radiation Safa received and what effects it might have on her health. To protect the girl’s eyes, a radiologic technologist arranged for the scan to be done at an angle that avoided this sensitive area.

Later, her mother said the test did not identify a specific problem, and Safa’s headaches were continuing. The family lives in Chicago’s Hoffman Estates.

Experts say that although children’s hospitals have focused on minimising radiation exposure, most kids get scans in adult hospitals or imaging centres that have been slower to improve practices.

“It’s common for us to see children who come in from other hospitals having had scans that often weren’t necessary,” said James Donaldson, chairman of medical imaging at Children’s Memorial.

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