CT scans not necessary in many child head injuries
Many Philadelphia children are rushed to the ER each year to be treated for a head injury sustained in a car accident, sports game or other accident. In the past, it has been common for most children who complain of a head injury to receive a CT scan to check for any serious brain injury. However, a new study suggests that CT scans are often unnecessary and expose children to potentially harmful radiation.
In the recent study, more than 40,000 cases of head injuries in children occurring between June 2004 and September 2006 were studied. Researchers found that often a few-hour waiting period during which symptoms are closely monitored can determine whether a CT scan is necessary.
A leader of the study says that CT scans are usually administered to make sure a more serious brain injury does not go undiagnosed. However, she also said that waiting four to six hours before deciding to administer a CT scan can be the best option.
CT scans use ionizing radiation that has been linked to cancer. Because children’s brains are still in development, the radiation can be more damaging to a child than an adult. The study shows that monitoring the injured child’s symptoms for a few hours can be a good way to determine if there may be a significant brain injury that requires a CT scan. Researchers say that if a child’s symptoms clear up within those few hours, they can usually be sent home without a CT scan.
Some say that a way to implement this process is to speak with parents about the reasoning behind waiting to give their child a CT scan. They say it is important for parents to understand that the goal is to prevent unnecessary exposure to radiation, not to ration emergency room care.