As I’ve written before, rapid increases in the use of medical imaging, especially CT, have led to alarming increases in radiation exposure in addition to the financial cost. This is a particular issue for kids, especially since they often receive radiation doses that are needlessly high. Initiatives such as Image Gently are doing their best to educate physicians on the need to use lower settings for kids.
However, even radiologists who know not to dose young kids with adult-strength radiation settings may not realize the need to be careful with teenagers as well. According to AuntMinnie (Smaller teens sometimes get adult-sized CT dose, study finds) teenagers often receive adult levels of radiation despite smaller body sizes.
“This discovery was unexpected and alarming, considering that more than 50% of teenage children who receive CT exams at [the Medical University of South Carolina] don’t have the body mass of a fully formed adult,” said Dr. Dobrinka Dimitrova, a radiology resident, during her scientific poster presentation…
“Above the age of 12 years, kV and mAs are standardized to fully formed adult bodies,” Dimitrova said. “Because children over the age of 12 have different growth rates, a 15-year-old girl, for example, may have a body size comparable to a 10-year-old. She may receive a lot higher dose than needed because the set parameters are for adults.”
“Some of the CT scans I’ve investigated have as much as 25 mSv of radiation dose. Two of these will put a pediatric patient into a category of high incidence of solid tumors or lymphoma. [Emphasis mine.] Radiologists need to be the gatekeepers to protect children from unnecessary and excessive radiation dose.”
This is a major issue for the medical community. Until things are sorted out parents should respectfully challenge radiologists who suggest CT scans. It may be an uncomfortable thing to do, but your kid may thank you later.