(NaturalNews) Computed tomography (CT) scans pose radiation hazards -- specifically, an elevated risk of developing cancer in later years -- that are particularly serious for children. But that doesn't stop doctors from routinely ordering CTs for kids, even for what used to be considered just a typical childhood accident, like falling off a bike or swing.
But there's good news. Researchers from the UC Davis School of Medicine have tackled the facts about this problem and came up with specific ways to zero in on the very few youngsters who actually should have these high tech scans after an accident.
"CT scans involve significant radiation risk, especially for children, who are more vulnerable than adults to radiation's effects," principal investigator and lead author of the study James Holmes, a professor of emergency medicine at the UC Davis School of Medicine, said in a media statement. "We have now identified a population of pediatric patients that does not typically benefit from a CT scan, which is an important step in reducing radiation exposure."
The research team studied over 12,000 children from emergency departments throughout the country in the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network (PECARN) and identified seven factors that can help physicians determine the need for a CT scan following blunt trauma to the abdomen.
The new study, titled "Identifying children at very low risk of clinically important blunt abdominal injuries," was just published online and will be printed in the upcoming issue of Annals of Emergency Medicine.
The researchers investigated the cases of children who arrived at emergency departments in the PECARN network after blunt trauma to their torsos. These were kids who had been involved in accidents such as car wrecks, bicycle crashes, falls or assaults.
A variety of factors related to the children's medical and personal histories and their clinical presentations (symptoms and evidence of injury) were evaluated. Using this information, the researchers found seven signs that were correlated with the risk a child had a serious injury -- including evidence of trauma on the abdomen or chest (such as seat-belt marks), neurological changes, abdominal pain or tenderness, abnormal breath sounds and vomiting.
However, if children had none of these factors when evaluated in the emergency department, they only had a 0.1 percent chance of having an abdominal injury that required acute intervention. That means that for the huge majority of these cases, a CT scan was not warranted.
What's more, according to the researchers, the risk of developing a future cancer from radiation exposure from a CT scan in this situation (i.e., when lacking all seven factors) far outweighs the risk of having a significant medical problem from the abdominal injury.
The authors of the study also made it clear that even when children have problems like abdominal pain and neurological changes after an accident, it doesn't automatically mean they need a CT scan. They urge doctors using their clinical judgment. They also recommend extending the period of observation in the emergency department for kids before rushing them to a CT. In addition, physicians should consider using findings from laboratory tests and non-radiation producing ultrasonography to contribute to decision-making in cases of abdominal trauma.
CT scans, as Natural News has covered previously, are not simply harmless ways to look into the body. The radiation exposure, especially when a person has several scans over the years, can significantly raise the risk of developing a malignancy. For example, research published in the journal Radiology showed CT scans increased their chances of malignancies by 2.7 to 12 percent. CT scans are also known to raise the risk of brain cancer in children.
About the author: Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA''''s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine''''s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic''''s "Men''''s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.