Monday, January 22, 2001

Kids' radiation dose can be lowered

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Researchers at Children's Hospital Medical Center have discovered that kids can get a lower dose of radiation in a CT scan and still get a clear image.

        They used this information — to be published today in the February edition of American Journal of Roent genology —to develop a sliding scale for CT scans based on weight that they hope will be posted on every CT machine used to scan youths.

        The new information about the diagnostic test, which is performed on Tristate children more than 17,000 times per year, shows kids have been getting adult-sized doses of radiation for years at hospitals nation wide.

        CT scanners are commonly used to check for appendicitis, to diagnose suspicious masses in the abdomen and to monitor cancer treatment.

        Typically, the patient lies on a moving bed that passes through one or more rings of spinning X-ray emitters.

        “The standard dose was based on adult work and has never been adjusted for chil dren, nor for the better CT scanners we have today,” said Dr. Lane Donnelly, a staff radiologist at Children's Hospital and the study's lead author.

        In some cases, such as full-chest CT scans, children can be exposed to five times more radiation than necessary.

        That's because radiologists have not been adjusting the dose to reflect a child's smaller body mass, the study reports.

        Even at adult-sized doses, the risk of developing cancer from CT scanner radiation is minimal, Dr. Donnelly said.

        But since the health effects of radiation exposure can accumulate throughout a lifetime, it makes sense to use as little radiation as possible, he said.

        CT scans use more radiation than do standard X-rays. Overall, CT scans account for about 4 percent of X-ray tests, but result in about 40 percent of the total radiation dose to the U.S. population, Dr. Donnelly said.

        Radiologists at Children's Hospital and Duke University noted the high doses after examining technical information on hundreds of CT scans sent to their experts to double-check medical diagnoses.

        Further testing revealed that lower doses for children can produce results just as good as higher doses for adults provide.


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