Childhood X-rays: 'Less is best'

A U.S. radiologist advises "less is best" when it comes to X-rays in children.—July 5, 2010

Dr. Helene Pavlov of Hospital for Special Surgery in New York says children, who are still growing, are susceptible to the effects of ionizing radiation and suggests parents ask if a facility where X-rays are to be taken emphasizes ALARA -- the acronym for "As Low As Reasonably Achievable."

However, parents first need to talk to the doctor.

"Ask what the doctor suspects is the problem and whether there is a non-ionizing radiation imaging examination and expertise available, such as an MRI or an ultrasound examination that could be substituted for the specific condition clinically suspected," Pavlov says in a statement.

If indeed X-rays are needed, Pavlov suggests parents ask whether shielding is used and the area exposed confined.

"It is okay to ask if the technique being used has been adjusted to the size of the child," Pavlov says.

She also suggests parents ask whether images need to be repeated. If repeat rates are high due to excessive motion, incorrect positioning or improper technique, Pavlov says, parents may want to choose a different facility.

Also, parents should ask how many patients are children, Pavlov advises. The higher the percentage of children, the more experience teams have in getting images correct the first time, she says.

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