Kids who undergo CT scans may face higher cancer risk later in life.

Article from the AMA Morning Rounds, 6-11-13

Research on the potential health risks of CT scans in children received moderate coverage in print and online, and on one of last night’s national news broadcasts. Although many sources portrayed the findings as alarming, they also pointed out that there has been a push in recent years to reduce unnecessary imaging.

NBC Nightly News (6/10, story 6, 2:50, Holt, 7.86M) reported on a study suggesting that children who undergo CT scans may face a higher risk of cancer later in life.

The Wall Street Journal (6/11, Wang, Subscription Publication, 2.29M) reports that researchers looked at data from seven HMOs on children who underwent CT scans.

Bloomberg News (6/11, Ostrow) reports, “The researchers estimated that 4,870 future cancers may occur each year in the future from the 4 million annual pediatric CT scans of the head, abdomen/pelvis, chest or spine.” The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, also suggested that “reducing the highest doses of radiation from CT scans to the middle dose may prevent 43 percent of these cancers.” Bloomberg News points out that approximately “7 million CT tests are performed in children each year in the U.S. and the number is rising about 10 percent annually, according to the Image Gently Campaign and the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging, which is funded by the Society for Pediatric Radiology, the American College of Radiology and other organizations to push for lower radiation doses in children.”

On its website, NBC News (6/11, Carroll) reports, “Between 1996 and 2006 CT scans in children under age 5 nearly doubled, while they almost tripled in kids aged 5 to 14 years.” Although “the number of scans in children has declined since 2006, it’s still much higher than in 1996.”

The Los Angeles Times (6/11, Kaplan, 692K) “Science Now” blog reports, “The American College of Radiology, which represents doctors who read CT scans (along with X-rays, ultrasounds, MRIs and other medical imaging studies), urged parents to discuss the pros and cons of CTs with their children’s doctors. CTs ‘must be used judiciously, when indicated, and when the needed information cannot be obtained in other ways, in order to minimize radiation exposure to all Americans – particularly children,’ the ACR said in a statement.” However, “they also emphasized that most CTs are done on children involved in accidents or who have other life-threatening conditions that need to be evaluated right away.” Still “overall, ‘medical imaging exams are directly linked to greater life expectancy, declines in mortality rates, and are generally safer and less expensive than the invasive procedures that they replace,’ the ACR’s statement said.”

Modern Healthcare (6/11, Lee, Subscription Publication, 71K) points out that “Image Gently, a campaign launched in 2008 by the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging, has sought to encourage dose reduction among healthcare providers.” Meanwhile, “the American Academy of Pediatrics recently said in its Choosing Wisely campaign contribution that CT scans are not necessary when immediately evaluating minor head injuries in children.”

Also covering the story are The Oregonian (6/11, Budnick, 237K), HealthDay (6/11), MedPage Today (6/11, Neale), and Medscape (6/11, Lewis).