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Study illuminates CT scan risks children face

Researchers affiliated with Boston Children's Hospital and UC Davis Health System recently released a nationwide study that should affect the treatment of children who suffer head trauma in accidents. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics and will likely be discussed in children's hospitals and trauma units in New York and around the nation.

In essence, the researchers studied the care of over 40,000 children who were treated in emergency departments following occurrences of head trauma. The researchers determined that only some injured children should be exposed to CT scans of their heads.

If a child has suffered head trauma, why not submit the child to a CT scan as a matter of course? Parents and some physicians may be concerned that skipping a CT scan will mean the possibility of missing some important piece of medical information. However, just as misread X-rays can lead to additional scans, unnecessary CT scans can lead to unnecessary tests and treatments too. Unnecessary scans should also be avoided because they pose risks for children who are still physically developing.

The new study indicates that limiting CT scans to children who have additional signs of head trauma beyond isolated loss of consciousness can help to limit cancer risks. Unnecessary scans pose unnecessary risks. And unfortunately for childhood head trauma patients being placed in CT scanners, a heightened chance of developing long-term cancer is one of those risks. If children are at low risk for significant head injuries, they should not be exposed to these scans for these reasons, the researchers argue.

Source: Rocklin and Roseville Today, "Study: CT Scans Carry Cancer Risk for Young Patients," UC Davis, July 7, 2014

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