Our journal along with many other peer-reviewed pediatric journals have certainly published our share of studies suggesting the potential radiation risks of computed tomography (CT) scans—especially multiple CT scan exposures in the same child. This has led to lower dosages of radiation when children need to use this imaging modality as well as a national campaign to “Image Gently” or to avoid overuse of this readily accessible technology unless it’s medically or surgically indicated relative to other radiologic options.
So are trends in CT scanning improving? Parker et al. (doi: 10.1542/peds.2015-0995) opted to assess these trends in a study being released this week in Pediatrics. The authors performed a cross-sectional study of 33 tertiary care children’s hospitals using data from the Pediatric Health Information System between 2004 and 2012 looking at trends in not just CT but also ultrasound (US) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for ten leading pediatric diagnoses recorded in this extensive dataset.
The results show that CT utilization is decreasing for most of the leading diagnoses and US and MRI trends and that alternative radiologic modalities are increasing. Just what do the trends show more specifically for what disease? The answers can be found by carefully scanning through the extensive data shared in this interesting study and then reassuring families that just because a CT scanner is available, doesn’t mean that the benefit of using it outweighs some radiation risks when less risky modalities may exist.