ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Simon Brandenburg is getting a CT scan before surgery to help with his cystic fibrosis. "I'm getting sinus surgery today to clear out infection."
Since cystic fibrosis is a chronic disease, he's had many CT scans in his life.
Recently the FDA took steps to ensure that patients like Simon, who need CT and other x-ray tests, don't get adult-sized doses of radiation by, among other things, proposing guidelines for scanners that are safe for kids.
Doctor Evan Harris, a radiologist at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, says they have just implemented a new type of CT scan imaging which reduces radiation doses by up to 80 percent. "It's actually a whole new machine. I-dose is a technology which allows the improved computer hardware and software processing to use a much lesser dose while the machine still generates as clear of a picture as if there were higher doses."
The tests can be lifesaving, diagnosing head trauma, appendicitis and other critical illnesses like cancer, but Harris says research also shows sometimes the scans are unnecessary.
And the radiation exposure does come with a few risks. "Once we've decided were not going to give a dose that will cause a burn which is a defined number recognized by the FDA, the second is much more cloudy. What is the long term affect on my child in terms of the risk of cancer and mutation? The best way to understand this is that is there is no safe dose but if we can minimize dose we can minimize risk like everything else."
St. Joseph's Hospital says they have similar technology and Florida Hospital Tampa says they have implemented several protocols to reduce radiation exposure with their existing scanners.
Harris suggests parents do three things if they find themselves in the ER with a child and a doctor orders a CT scan:
- Ask if the CT scan is absolutely necessary or if there are alternative tests that can make a diagnosis.
- Ask if their CT scanner can reduce the dose size or if they have to give their child an adult sized dose.
- Find a hospital that specializes in children where they may have equipment that will adjust dosage for the size of the patient.
Here's more advice from the FDA: