What Parents Need To Know About The CT Scan And Their Child

March 3, 2011

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CT (formerly known as CAT scanning) is arguable one of the most important medical diagnostic tools of the last century. The speed of access, quality of images and accessibility to patients make this test invaluable when we have questions about the head, chest, abdomen and spine. Sometimes it is the only test that can give us the answers. But, parents need to understand the risks of the procedure, as it pertains to their child.

The more obvious risks are exceedingly rare, including those associated with allergic reactions to the intravenous contrast (dye), the intravenous needle leaking and risk of a bad reaction to sedation (if required). Like I said, these are all extremely rare. The risk that frequently does not get talked about is the potential risk from radiation exposure. This is partly because we are not exactly sure about the magnitude of the risk. What we DO know is that if your physician is considering a CT scan the most important question is "do the benefits of the CT scan outweigh the risk?" And available data indicates the the risk of developing cancer related to a single CT scan is very small.

So how does a parent begin to understand these issues?

First, there are some great websites that will provide information. This one is the best... What Parents Need To Know About CT Scans For Children: Medical Radiation Safety.

Second, make sure the facility where your child is having the CT performed is using "child-sized doses" for the CT scan. If you don't know, ask your doctor to talk with the radiologist at the facility, or speak to the radiologist yourself. Hopefully, understanding the benefits and risks of CT will make you an informed patient.

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