Computed tomography (CT) scans pose radiation hazards - specifically, an elevated risk of developing cancer in later years - that are particularly serious for children.
But that doesn't stop
doctors from routinely ordering CTs for kids, even for what used to
be considered just a typical childhood accident, like falling off a
bike or swing.
Researchers from the UC Davis School of Medicine have tackled the facts about this problem and came up with specific ways to zero in on the very few youngsters who actually should have these high tech scans after an accident.
The research team
studied over 12,000 children from emergency departments throughout
the country in the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research
and identified seven factors that can help physicians determine the
need for a CT scan following blunt trauma to the abdomen.
Using this information,
the researchers found seven signs that were correlated with the risk
a child had a serious injury - including evidence of trauma on the
abdomen or chest (such as seat-belt marks), neurological changes,
abdominal pain or tenderness, abnormal breath sounds and vomiting.
They urge doctors using
their clinical judgment. They also recommend extending the period of
observation in the emergency department for kids before rushing them
to a CT. In addition, physicians should consider using findings from
laboratory tests and non-radiation producing ultrasonography to
contribute to decision-making in cases of abdominal trauma.
The radiation exposure, especially when a person has several scans over the years, can significantly raise the risk of developing a malignancy. For example, research published in the journal Radiology showed CT scans increased their chances of malignancies by 2.7 to 12 percent.
CT scans are also known
to raise the risk of brain cancer in children.