If a CT is recommended, you did mention that it is wise to ask that a child-appropriate level of radiation be used, to cut the radiation risk in half.
So, the question is: What is the appropriate level of radiation used on a child? And if the level of radiation were to be reduced, will the procedure be as effective and the results be as accurate? How do parents know if the level of radiation has been reduced?
Dr. Greene’s Answer:
The amount of radiation used for a CT scan depends on the part of the body being examined and the level of detail needed. Far less radiation is needed to get the same image clarity in a child. Adult CT settings give four times as much radiation as is necessary to image a baby’s abdomen, and they give twice as much as is needed to scan its head.
A typical CT scan beam is set at 200 mAs (millampere-seconds) for a head CT. This would deliver about 60 mSv of radiation to a baby. A pediatric setting of 100 mAs would expose the baby to only about 30 mSv of radiation and would still provide excellent picture quality.
As a rule of thumb, the pediatric dose for a head CT should be about half that of an adult, but this should be individually adjusted for the child’s size.
Parents will only know if an adjustment has been made if they ask. If you ask, “Has the scanner been adjusted?” it might be easy for someone to answer, “Yes,” without thinking. You are more likely to get a thoughtful answer if you ask, “How will you adjust the scanner for my child?”
Read More From This Series:
CT Scan Defined
CT Scan, Ultrasound or MRI?
CT Scan Safety
CT Scans and Radiation Exposure
CT Scan Risks
Higher Risks in Children
Who Should Receive a CT Scan?
X-Ray or a CT Scan?
Alternatives to a CT Scan
When Should a CT Scan be Performed?
Important Tip to Reduce to Radiation
Questions to Ask before Every CT Scan
Other Radiation Exposures
Measures That Radiologists Should Adhere to When Administering a CT Scan
CT Scans and Cancer
When are MRIs not Practical?
What is Ionizing Radiation?
Who are Radiologists?
Last reviewed: February 14, 2008