What parents should know about CT scans and radiation
In the last few years, there has been a lot of information in the media and medical literature about CT scans (also known as Computed Tomography or CAT scans) and the resulting radiation exposure to children.
We know children are more sensitive than adults to radiation exposure and that CT scans are one of the most common and significant medical exposures of children to radiation. Although the risk of radiation from a CT scan is low, it is not zero. There is the potential for a slight increased risk of cancer later in life.
You should be reassured that at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota we are well aware of these issues and have taken steps to use a low dose of radiation. Our scan settings are adjusted individually according to your child's size. This is very different from an adult hospital where almost all adults receive the same dose. We have been able to decrease our doses for children without compromising the quality of the test.
For many pediatric medical problems, the CT scan is an invaluable test. Often, it is the only test that can provide the information needed to optimally treat your child. There are potential risks and benefits to all medical treatments and procedures.
The CT scan is capable of viewing all the internal organs and in so doing may lead to a diagnosis that was previously only possible with surgery. When your doctor recommends a CT scan, the benefits to your child's health from the information obtained are superior to the minimal risk associated with the low dose of radiation.