Children's Sensitivity to Diagnostic Imaging
Many childhood diseases and conditions can be diagnosed using state-of-the-art medical diagnostic imaging equipment, and countless children have benefited from this technology. Still, unnecessary radiation exposure during medical procedures should be avoided whenever possible-and this is particularly true when the patient is a child.
Because radiation exposure is cumulative, the earlier a person is exposed to radiation the more likely they will have more lifetime exposure than someone who first receives radiation later in life. It is important to discuss whether alternatives may work as well as a test with radiation. Your physician can support you making an informed decision about the test for your child.
RadZoneKids is an easy-to-use community resource to assist parents and caregivers in preparing their children for various diagnostic imaging tests, including CT scans, MRI scans, and X-rays.
The website was designed from a child's perspective, with animated characters, bright colors, easy-to-understand descriptions and an emphasis on learning through simulation and interaction. Children can choose a character and an "adventure" -- a CT scan, MRI scan or an X-ray -- to better understand and visualize what will happen during the actual test. Descriptions of the tests are available in language suitable for children, and there is a parent/caregiver learning section with information about the procedure, as well as questions to ask the child's physician in advance of the test.
"Doctors seek to minimize radiation exposure in their patients," said Michael Pentecost, M.D., chief medical officer of NIA. "If we can help create a better test experience for a child, who may be scared and anxious about things they don't understand, we can hopefully cut down on the number of repeat tests needed."
According to a study published in December 2013 in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, over a nine-year observation period, the likelihood of a child having a CT procedure increased by 34% and the likelihood of a child having an MRI procedure increased by 84%.
"When used appropriately, these tests can help diagnose and treat patients in a way other methods cannot," said Pentecost. "Ensuring that children know what to expect, and parents and caregivers know what questions to ask are critical parts of this process, and can help lead to potentially better test quality."