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Radiation dose in paediatric computed tomography: risks and benefits

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Abstract:

Computed tomography (CT) is a powerful tool for the accurate and effective diagnosis and treatment of a variety of conditions because it allows high-resolution three-dimensional images to be acquired very quickly. However as the number of CT procedures performed globally have continued to increase; with growing concerns about patient protection. Currently, no system is in place to track patient doses and the lifetime cumulative dose from medical sources. The widespread use of CT even in developing countries has raised questions regarding the possible threat to public health especially in children. The best available risk estimates suggest that paediatric CT will result in significantly increased lifetime radiation risk over adult CT. Studies have shown that lower milliampere-second (mAs) settings can be used for children without significant loss of information. Although the risk–benefit balance is still strongly tilted toward benefit, there is still need for caution. Furthermore since the frequency of paediatric CT examinations is rapidly increasing, and estimates suggest that quantitative lifetime radiation risks for children are not negligible, efforts should be made toward more active reduction of CT exposure settings in paediatric patients. This article hopes to address this concerns and draw attention to the fact that children are not ‘small adults ’ and should therefore be treated differently.

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