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CT Scans And Radiation Risks In Children – Is It Really Worth It?

Written by Wellness Club on October 15, 2008 – 12:49 pm -

Opinion By Nurse Mark

We have become very quick to request CT scans for just about every complaint these days – for ourselves, and especially for our children.

And who can blame a worried parent: little Suzy has a tummyache, or little Johnny fell and thumped his head, or there is that nagging cough that hasn’t gone away and it’s been almost two weeks now… so it’s off to the doctor to demand some answers.

The poor doctor though is swamped with all the other worried parents of all the other Suzies and Johnnies, so he listens quickly to the story, makes a perfunctory check to make sure that no disaster will befall the child before it gets to someone else’s care, and sends ‘em packing with an order for a CT of whatever.

Whew – done! Let the radiologist make a diagnosis! (Or face the wrath of a parent who must be told that there is nothing to be seen, and that coughs and colds and tummyaches and thumped noggins have been survived by kids for millions of years before the advent of CT scans and lawsuits.)

Let’s look at what this is doing to our kids: In terms of radiation dose, a head CT is equivalent to 200 chest x-rays, a chest CT to 150 chest x-rays, and an abdominal CT to 250 chest x-rays.

In this report, just issued to doctors, nurses, and radiologists on the Medscape website (they felt this was important enough that they provided "continuing education credits" or CE’s for reading the article and passing the test!)  are told "Computed tomography is of particular interest because of its relatively high radiation dose and wide use. Consensus statements on radiation risk suggest that it is reasonable to act on the assumption that low-level radiation may have a small risk of causing cancer."

Throughout this article the weasel-words "may have" and "small risk" are used repeatedly, and several times the article assures doctors that they should continue to support the CT imaging industry by ordering scans because "Low-level radiation from CT studies might carry a small risk for cancer, but the risk is outweighed by the benefits of indicated CT studies in children."

In this last statement note the use of the medical weasel-word "indicated." In normal layperson language "indicated" means "really needed because there is no other way to get the same results." For example, in a septic bacterial infection, an antibiotic would be indicated – for an influenza, not. In terms of CT scanning and other radiological examinations, "indicated" means that the doctor has exhausted all other means of making a diagnosis – including a careful and detailed hands-on physical examination!

Unfortunately, few conventional (i.e. allopathic) doctors have the time, inclination or, in some cases the skills to do such a detailed examination and work-up – much of today’s "art of medicine" involves remembering what drug or test the Merck Manual dictates as being the "Standard of Care" for any given complaint and writing the appropriate order or prescription. Better to pass the risk of misdiagnosis on to a "specialist" than to try to "make the call" by ones-self… – this is known in clinical practice as "Risk Management."

There is no question that as exposure to radiation increases, so does the risk of stimulating cancer. It is for this reason that those old fluoroscopes were banned from shoe stores and radium is no longer used on watch dials! Why the Big Medical Establishment continues to try to delude use into believing that these high-radiation-dose CT scans are acceptable for our children who are actively growing and thus at even higher risk is beyond comprehension. Is it ignorance, laziness, or the need to protect the multi billions of dollars per year industry that CT scanning has become?

Fortunately, parents do have a choice – they can insist that all non-radiological avenues of examination and diagnosis are followed, explored, and exhausted by skilled practitioners before consenting to CT scans for their children!

The Medscape article can be found here:

Report Issued on the Risks of Using CT Scans in Children

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