Is Your Child’s CT Scan Really Necessary?

August 07, 2016

If you have children, there’s a good chance that they will experience a head injury as the result of a fall or playing sports at some point in their childhood.  As a parent, your first instinct may be to visit the ER and ask for a CT scan.

While it’s important to be concerned about your child’s health in these situations, it’s equally important to understand that there are risks involved with the use of diagnostic imaging like CT scans and x-rays, and these tests may not always be warranted. There is a small risk that the radiation from these tests can cause cancer, so every effort should be made to avoid them when possible.

Emergency Department physicians use a very narrow set of criteria, called the PECARN Pediatric Head Injury/Trauma Algorithm, to determine if a pediatric patient needs brain imaging after a head injury. For example, using the PECARN guidelines, if your child is under age 2, exhibits an altered mental status and fell from a height of 3ft or more, then a CT scan and/or observation is advised. If your child under age 2 has a palpable skull fracture, then a CT scan must be performed.  If your child has temporary loss of consciousness, for example, but no other signs or symptoms, it’s highly unlikely the child has sustained a serious brain injury and thus a CT scan is not necessary.

Shore Medical Center's Emergency Department team is skilled in using the PECARN guidelines and will determine if your child does meet criteria for the CT scan. Shore Medical Center has the latest generation of CT which uses an ultra lower dose of radiation to help keep radiation exposure down. For more information on Shore Medical Center's ultra low dose CT, click here visit.