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Around four million computerized tomography scans, known as CT scans, are done on children each year, and a new study says parents may not be aware of the associated risks, including a lifetime increased risk of cancer.
But the study reveals when they are made aware, many more choose to withdraw their children from those tests.
Dr. Kathy Boutis, of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, was the lead researcher of the study published in the July 8 edition of Pediatrics.
The researchers surveyed parents who brought their children to emergency rooms because of a head injury. When discussing the use of CT scans for their child’s diagnosis, only 47 percent of parents knew of the increased cancer risk.
Ninety percent of the parents were willing to allow their children to undergo the CT scan before being informed of the risk. After being provided with information on the risks associated with the scans, the percentage dropped to 70 percent, the study revealed.
CT scans take several scans and combine them to create a 3D image. During a CT head scan, patients can be exposed to 20 times more ionizing radiation than during a similar X-ray.
In a study published in June 2013 in JAMA Pediatrics, it was found that children exposed to radiation from CT scans potentially had double the risk of developing cancer later in life as well as an increased risk of leukemia.
Another recent analysis of CT scans found they are “too good” at finding pulmonary embolisms and unnecessary in diagnosis.
An 80 percent rise in these pulmonary embolisms has been recorded since doctors began using CT scans for diagnosis, yet the fatality rate has stayed the same. The conclusion of the study was that the use of CT scans results in overdiagnosis. The “old-fashioned” way of diagnosis works just as well and does not involve the radiation exposure and unnecessary treatment for harmless emboli, the study revealed.
Dr. Milton Wolf, a practicing diagnostic radiologist, spoke with WND and said doctors are stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place when it comes to ordering these tests.
“If they provide too much care, the government targets them as insurance or Medicare frauds,” Wolf said, “If they provide too little care, the trial lawyers target them as quacks.”
Wolf says doctors aren’t the only ones who lose in the nation’s health system.
“The patients are the ones left in the lurch,” Wolf said. “A patient-centered system would remove the politicians and the trial lawyers from the exam room and allow you and your doctor to determine what’s right for you.”
Other tests that use little or no radiation such as ultrasounds and MRI can sometimes be used instead of CT scans. Experts urge parents to discuss alternatives with their child’s doctor.
The study found, “Approximately half of the participating parents were aware of the potential increased lifetime malignancy risk associated with head CT imaging. Willingness to proceed with CT testing was reduced after risk disclosure but was a significant barrier for a small minority of parents. Most parents wanted to be informed of potential malignancy risks before proceeding with imaging. ”
According to a doctors’ resource online, in 1987 medical X-rays accounted for only about 10 percent of total radiation exposure for Americans, but because of the increasing use in the medical community of such tests, by 2006, “medical exposure” accounted for about half of the total radition exposure.