I’ve written before about the radiation risk of x-ray studies. Most of this risk is in the form of increased lifetime cancer risk. This is a particular concern for children because lifetime risk is cumulative, and children have much more of their life before them. Computed tomographic scans, or CT scans, use several hundred times the amount of radiation of ordinary x-rays.
A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated up to a third of all CT scans ordered in children are not really needed. Why all the unnecessary scans? One reason is poor communication between doctors when, for example, a child is transferred from one hospital to another. Another reason is “defensive medicine,” situations in which doctors order a scan because they fear missing something which, although highly unlikely, could get them sued.
The bottom line for parents? Ask your child’s doctor how crucial the CT scan is for your child’s care. From the article: “From an individual standpoint, when a CT scan is justified by medical need, the associated risk is small relative to the diagnostic information obtained.” The key is to make sure there is a good medical indication.
04/03/2010 • I've written before about how to think about the risk of x-rays that we doctors do -- here, here, and here. These posts, particularly the first one, are the most read and commented upon ones ...more
07/23/2010 • There's a provocative editorial in a recent New England Journal of Medicine about the explosive rise in high-tech medical imaging. Everyone knows doctors order a lot of CT scans, MRI scans, and ultrasound studies, and ...more
10/02/2010 • I've been doing this blog for three years, and by far the post that has provoked the most interest is this one, about the safety of x-rays. The comments, now at 102, keep steadily coming. ...more
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08/19/2013 • Many, myself included, have written about the overuse of head computed tomography (CT) scanning in children. This concern has become more focused now that we have some data on the radiation risk of those scans. ...more
06/08/2013 • I've written before about the increased risk for future cancer, if any, of diagnostic radiation (here , here, and here). These posts have generated a large number of comments and questions from parents. Most take ...more
10/05/2012 • The sinuses are air-filled cavities in our skulls. They are important for a couple of reasons. For one thing, they help warm and humidify the air we breathe in through our nose. For another thing, ...more
08/22/2011 • Nearly everyone has heard about the medical malpractice controversy. Most doctors call it a crisis, saying, among other things, that physicians are retiring early because of it or altering their practice -- not taking on ...more