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Children's brains needlessly exposed to cancer-linked radiation

Monday, May 09, 2011 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: children, medical imaging, health news

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(NaturalNews) Are you a parent? Here's a simple question to ask yourself: if your youngster receives a bump on the head, would you rather keep an eye on your child for 4 to 6 hours to make sure he or she suffered no serious trauma -- or would you prefer that doctors zap your child's brain with ionizing radiation from costly computed tomography (CT) scans just to make you feel better immediately?

Most moms and dads would probably prefer the simple "watchful waiting" approach if they thought there was little chance their offspring had serious head trauma. And it turns out, according to a huge study of more than 40,000 kids with blunt head trauma just published online in the journal Pediatrics, simple observation is the best approach and also the healthiest -- because it doesn't expose children to ionizing radiation.

So why do about half of all US children taken to hospital emergency departments (EDs) for a head injury receive a head CT scan? Remarkably, the scientists behind the new research claim it is "often to ease worried parents' concerns". Simply put, parents are blamed for the outrageously common practice of exposing children needlessly to radiation for a bump on the head.

In a statement to the media, the research team, led by Children's Hospital Boston and UC Davis, pointed out that true traumatic brain injury is uncommon. Their multi-center study of children with minor blunt head trauma provides compelling evidence that simply allowing a period of observation can reduce the use of head CT by as much as half -- without putting the kids in danger and without exposing children to ionizing radiation. This change in medical practice would not only slash healthcare costs, but is better medicine, the researchers concluded.

"Only a small percentage of children with blunt head trauma really have something serious going on," Lise Nigrovic, MD, MPH, of Children's Hospital Boston (who co-led the study with Nathan Kuppermann, MD, MPH, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at UC Davis) said in a media statement. "If you can be watched in the ED for a few hours, you may not need a CT."

Nigrovic, Kuppermann and colleagues found that simply opting for an observation period of kids who had received a blow to the head did not compromise safety. Clinically important traumatic brain injury (defined by an injury resulting in death, neurosurgical intervention, intubation for more than 24 hours or hospital admission for two nights or more) was equally uncommon in the kids who were simply observed for several hours and those who were not observed but sent for CT scans.

The scientists pointed out that cranial CT scans present additional risks for children because youngsters' growing brain tissue is far more sensitive to ionizing radiation than that of adults. And, because of their longer life expectancy, children's lifetime risk of developing a radiation-induced cancer is greater. However,as NaturalNews has previously reported, there is evidence that CT scans increase the risk of cancer in adults, too(http://www.naturalnews.com/026001_CT_scans_c...).

"CT isn't bad if you really need it, but you don't want to use it in children who are at low risk for having a significant injury," Nigrovicn stated. "For parents, this means spending a couple of extra hours in the ED in exchange for not getting a CT. It's the children in the middle risk groups -- those who don't appear totally normal, but whose injury isn't obviously severe -- for whom observation can really help."

So exactly how long should you keep a watchful eye on a child who has received a blow to the head? Practice guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend a child be carefully observed for 4 to 6 hours after injury.

"There is a clear need to develop appropriate and safe guidelines for decreasing the number of inappropriate head CT scans that we do on children," Kuppermann said in the press statement."The results of this analysis demonstrate that a period of observation before deciding to use head CT scans on many injured children can spare children from inappropriate radiation when it is not called for, while not increasing the risk of missing important brain injuries."

For more information:
http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/
http://www.naturalnews.com/029577_CT_scans_r...

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