Grace Scavone, a healthy, active 17-year-old. Lacrosse is her favorite sport. She also plays basketball, runs and swims. Saying she's athletic is an understatement. But a couple of years ago, she started having pain in her hip, and her doctors also noticed a large spine deformity. She was referred to HSS and Roger Widmann, MD, Chief of Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery, for management of her scoliosis.
Vera Scavone says learning her daughter had a curve in her spine came as a shock, but she knew that with the right treatment, it could be corrected. People who have scoliosis often need periodic X-rays to monitor the condition. Like most parents, Ms. Scavone was concerned about exposure to radiation. So she was relieved to learn about a new imaging system at HSS that resulted in much less exposure.
“I definitely felt better, since Grace needed a lot of X-rays,” recalls Ms. Scavone. She and Grace traveled to HSS in Manhattan from Westchester each time X-rays were necessary, to take advantage of this lower-dose imaging option. “It’s absolutely reassuring for parents to know that the dosage of radiation will be minimized.”
The “Image Gently” campaign is a coalition of healthcare organizations that promotes safe, high-quality pediatric imaging worldwide. It seeks to send a message that X-rays and other imaging tests save lives, but should be used thoughtfully. That means choosing the right test and adjusting the dose when children are involved. This has long been the philosophy at HSS.
HSS recently acquired a fourth orthopedic imaging system that produces much less radiation compared to standard X-rays. The lower-dose system, known as EOS, provides high-quality 3D images. The technology recently became available at HSS Westchester in White Plains, New York. The other imaging systems are at the main hospital campus in Manhattan, including one at Lerner Children’s Pavilion.
HSS was the first hospital in New York City to acquire EOS and is the only hospital in the country with four EOS systems. “Many of our pediatric patients who are treated for scoliosis need X-rays several times a year,” Dr. Widmann explains. “We take every safety precaution with all imaging tests, and the low-dose system is another way we can meet the needs of our patients and provide high-quality care.”
Different types of imaging can often be used to make a diagnosis and plan treatment. But doctors must balance the need for accurate results with the need to minimize the amount of radiation exposure. This concept, known as ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable), is particularly important in children. Physicians at HSS seek to ensure that the lowest amount of radiation is used to produce images based on the patient’s size and the diagnostic task at hand.
A person does not need to be a patient of an HSS doctor to use the hospital’s EOS imaging system, as long as they have a doctor’s prescription. The test takes about 25 seconds and is generally covered by insurance. EOS is most often used for patients who have scoliosis. It is not used to diagnose broken bones. Regular X-rays are still the best way to diagnose a suspected fracture.
EOS is also used to assess leg length differences in children. These patients generally require frequent imaging tests to monitor growth, plan for surgery and determine the effectiveness of treatment. A previous study at HSS found that the lower-dose imaging system performed as well as a conventional CT scan to assess leg length.
As for Grace Scavone, scoliosis surgery with Dr. Widmann was a success. She didn’t miss a single season of lacrosse, getting back in the game just eight months after surgery. Vera Scavone says she is proud of her daughter, who is now getting ready for college. And her posture is perfect.