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How Boston Children’s keeps radiation exposure as low as possible

Computed tomography (CT) scans may place children at an increased risk of cancer, according to two recently released studies published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and the British Medical Journal (BMJ).  

Despite the highly publicized radiation risks associated with high-dose CT scans, Boston Children’s Hospital has been at the forefront of a movement to reduce the levels of radiation exposure to young patients for years.

CT scans produce high-quality images of inside patient’s bodies and are especially helpful in diagnosing certain illness or injury, like severe brain trauma, appendicitis or problems inside a person’s lungs. To produce their images, CT scanners use highly focused, x-ray beams. When child-sized doses are used, the patient’s level of exposure to radiation is relatively low. Although the risks from low levels of ionizing radiation are not well understood, we assume that even a small exposure to ionizing radiation could potentially lead to an increased risk of cancer and do everything we can to use the minimum amount of radiation necessary to obtain appropriate medical images.

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Children’s continues efforts to reduce radiation imaging

Children's CT scanners have pediatric settings and have been modified to look less intimidating to young patients

A recently released report suggests some doctors are relying too heavily on certain imaging tests–which may contribute to the rising costs of medical care as well as exposing patients to unnecessary amounts of radiation. The report’s findings are of special concern for younger patients, who are more susceptible to risks associated with radiation than adults.

In response, the staff of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging is working to keep the radiation dose given to patients as low as possible while providing all the information doctors need to treat patients. Imagers at Children’s who use CT (computed tomography) scans to produce high-quality images of inside their patient’s bodies have gone to great lengths to ensure their procedures are as safe as possible.

“No concrete published data has linked radiation damage to the radiation dose level of a CT scan, but the small potential risk suggests that all reasonable efforts should be made to reduce these radiation dose levels when imaging children,” says Keith Strauss, M.Sc, director, Radiology Physics and Engineering at Children’s Hospital Boston.

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