Possible Decline in Pediatric CT Use

March 6, 2013
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ImageI’ve been concerned about radiation from x-ray’s ever since I was a kid, when my mom only allowed the dentist to take x-rays occasionally. Ionizing radiation from CT is much, much higher, which is why I’ve been alarmed at the high and growing use of CT especially in pediatrics and have supported the Image Gently campaign.

ImageI’ve been concerned about radiation from x-ray’s ever since I was a kid, when my mom only allowed the dentist to take x-rays occasionally. Ionizing radiation from CT is much, much higher, which is why I’ve been alarmed at the high and growing use of CT especially in pediatrics and have supported the Image Gently campaign.

Most studies still show the rate of pediatric CT going up, but a new paper and my anecdotal observations make me more optimistic that the trend is abating if not reversing.

The new study shows the use of pediatric CT has stabilized or even decreased over the past few years (ending in 2010). This study is limited to hospitalized patients, which could easily explain why the results contradict other published data, but I’m glad to see a decrease in any population. Also a lot of the attention on radiation exposure has come since 2010 so perhaps we will see that show up in the next analysis.

In recent years I’ve had a couple of experiences at Boston Children’s Hospital where I kind of expected they would do a CT, based on the situation and from what I’d read about the tendency to use that modality. But the docs I met were very hesitant to use CT, treating it as more of a last resort. They were quite upfront that they were holding back over concern about radiation, and I had the sense that they were ready to push back if parents insisted on a CT. I’m the first to admit this is anecdotal information, and I don’t know if it even applies to the whole hospital, never mind pediatrics as a whole.

Still, it seems to be the tide is turning or has already turned on this topic, and I’m willing to bet there will be more studies that show similar findings over the next few years.

image: ct scan/shutterstock