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article imageAre X-rays safe for kids?

By Tim Sandle     Dec 13, 2014 in Health
Unnecessary chest x-rays for children are the most recent diagnostic tests that are being questioned for necessity and safety, according to researchers at Mayo Clinic.
The researchers argue that decisions about appropriate care, diagnostic tests, procedures, selecting a specialty drug therapy or a hospitalization should rely on medical evidence. The key findings from a review of medical X-ray practices were:
Approximately 88 percent of pediatric chest X-rays assessed did not alter clinical treatment.
None of the patients who underwent chest X-rays for indications including fainting, spells, POTS, dizziness or cyclical vomiting had any finding that affected treatment.
Optimizing radiation exposure and cost effectiveness are important topics in today's healthcare environment, particularly in a pediatric population.
This was based on an assessment of data from 719 pediatric chest X-ray exams ordered between 2008 and 2014. The results showed that average child now gets seven scans that rely on radiation before age 18.
With X-rays, beams are used that penetrate the body. The rays are absorbed in different amounts depending on the density of the material they pass through. Dense materials, such as bone and metal, show up as white on X-rays. The air in a person's lungs shows up as black. In contrast, fat and muscle appear as varying shades of gray.
There can be a downside to X-rays; they have the potential to cause biological effects within the tissues, especially rapidly growing tissues, which are more sensitive to radiation. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) children's exposure to X-can be of concern for the following reasons:
Younger patients are more radiosensitive than adults (this means that the cancer risk per unit dose of x-radiation is higher for younger patients).
Younger patients have a longer expected lifetime for the effects of radiation exposure to manifest as cancer.
Use of equipment and exposure settings designed for adult use can result in excessive radiation exposure for the smaller patient. All modern x-ray units have settings for children to allow the correct X-ray dosage.
As an alternative, new technologies are available to help providers make or validate decisions at the point of care based on the most recent data.
The findings were presented at a recent meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).
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