Diagnostic imaging has become invaluable in the field of medicine. It not only provides a window into parts of the human body that were once an enigma but also greatly reduces the need for undue, invasive exploratory surgeries.
However, every advancement comes with a bit of pushback; in the case of pediatric radiology, the radiation presents a modicum of risk that has left some parents wondering: is it really necessary?
Perhaps the nuclear era of yesteryear has left a bad taste in people’s mouths, but when it comes down to it, radiation is all around us. Living at high altitudes, flying frequently, and even exposing yourself too often to the sun’s rays can leave you susceptible to the negative effects of radiation exposure.
Exposure Levels Matter
When used in moderation, the radiation used in diagnostic testing is generally considered safe.
However, the long-term effects of radiology tests such as X-rays and computed tomography (CT) scans are still being studied, as is their association with developing certain types of cancers later in life. Between these two imaging tests, X-rays are the safer choice as it emits far less radiation.
Between 1996 and 2010, the number of CT scans being performed on children under 14 more than doubled – and this number has only continued to rise.
There’s never been a better time to be more conservative when it comes to diagnostic imaging in children. One of the methods that the medical field has used to foster awareness of the dangers of ionizing radiation in X-rays and CT scans is the use of measurement tools such as effective doses.
Simply put, an effective dose is a marker that gauges the sensitivity of tissues to radiation-induced cancer.
It’s important to note that children are at greater risk for cancer triggered by radiation. If imaging equipment settings aren’t adjusted to account for the size of a child’s body, this can increase their exposure and health risk. Children also have a longer life expectancy and, subsequently, a lengthier timeframe in which to feel radiation’s residual effects.
What You Can Do
Two of the ways you can reduce your child’s risk is by keeping an accurate and up-to-date record of your child’s medical history, as well as inquiring about alternative tests such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that don’t require the use of ionizing radiation.
The American Association of Physicists in Medicine launched a successful campaign targeted to radiologists and physicians called Image Gently to improve radiation protection for children.
If your pediatrician or medical specialist recommends the use of diagnostic imaging for your child, there are many things you can do to manage the radiation exposure. For one, heed the advice of a radiologist who will only use X-rays and CT scans when the rewards far outweigh the risks, uses targeted imaging that protects especially vulnerable tissues, and keeps thorough medical records so that tests aren’t unnecessarily repeated.
Independent Imaging has been a venerated provider of top-notch radiology imaging services for more than 30 years. Their facility is highly respected in the medical field due to their knowledgeable and compassionate staff, state-of-the-art equipment, and accreditation by the American College of Radiology. For more information, call their office at (561) 795-5558.