Radiologists don’t always need the crispest image. Often it’s possible to diagnose fine while using a fraction of the typical radiation dose, said Dr. Marta Hernanz-Schulman of Vanderbilt University, who chairs the American College of Radiology’s pediatric imaging commission.
While there’s no generally accepted safe lifetime radiation dose for children, Schulman tells parents to keep a list of their child’s medical scans _ and pull it out every time a doctor considers ordering another one. That’s especially helpful for children with chronic diseases who truly need more medical scans than the average youngster.
Consider 4-year-old Sarhea (Sa-RAY-ah) Kaupp of Cincinnati, who has cystic fibrosis and serious intestinal complications. By her mother’s count, she’s had more than 100 X-rays, three CT scans and multiple fluoroscopies, like an X-ray movie.
“The risk of radiation in our experience, it has to happen. It’s the lesser of two evils,” says her mother, Sarah Kaupp. But she lists all her daughter’s latest scans at every doctor visit to avoid any unnecessary repeats.
And now she only gets them at a pediatric hospital, after X-rays from a stand-alone facility had to be repeated twice because the technicians aimed wrong and took blurry shots. Until then, “I thought an X-ray was an X-ray,” Kaupp said.
For parents, the FDA recommended:
_Keep a list of your child’s medical scans. At the least, it helps guard against unneeded repeats.
_Ask the doctor who orders a scan how it will improve the child’s care and whether there are alternatives, such as MRI or ultrasound, that don’t use radiation.
_Ask the imaging facility whether it uses reduced radiation techniques for children.
The FDA also is urging doctors to consider how many scans the child already has had and the possibility of alternatives before ordering another test.
“It’s something you need to use conscientiously,” Schulman said of the scans. “Any radiation you don’t need is radiation you shouldn’t get.”
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