Parents are sometimes concerned about the radiation that children receive in the course of diagnostic xrays, CT scans, and so forth. This is a legitimate concern but consider that the amount of radiation received from a typical xray study is much less radiation than the child receives from natural sources in the course of life. Physicians are concerned about this issue as well; they weigh the very tiny risk of radiation exposure against the risk of not diagnosing potentially serious disease adequately or in a timely fashion. Overall, the risk of childhood xray exposure for routine studies - chest xray, limbs for possible fradctures - is so low that hardly a thought need be given to it. For the seriously or chronically ill patient who needs many xray studies, or for cancer patients who undergo radiation therapy, it is a more pertinent concern. If your child is in the latter category, you should discuss this issue with your physician.

Of special note is the fact that CT scans, if done with adult strength settings, do pose a significant increase in lifetime cancer risk due to the radiation exposure1. These authors conclude: "The best available risk estimates suggest that pediatric CT will result in significantly increased lifetime radiation risk over adult CT, both because of the increased dose per milliampere-second, and the increased lifetime risk per unit dose. Lower milliampere-second settings can be used for children without significant loss of information. Although the risk-benefit balance is still strongly tilted toward benefit, because the frequency of pediatric CT examinations is rapidly increasing, estimates that quantitative lifetime radiation risks for children undergoing CT are not negligible may stimulate more active reduction of CT exposure settings in pediatric patients."

1. "Estimated Risks of Radiation-Induced Fatal Cancer from Pediatric CT," Brenner, D. J., Berdon, W. E. American Journal of Radiology 2001; 176:289-296

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