Health Department Participates in Image Gently Campaign to Increase Radiation Safety Awareness About CT Imaging of Children

New Pamphlets and Recordkeeping Cards Promote Safe Medical Imaging

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 3, 2010) – The State Department of Health (DOH) is issuing informational pamphlets and child medical imaging cards as part of a campaign to raise awareness about radiation safety issues associated with computed tomography (CT) imaging of children. The materials are being provided to 16,000 pediatricians and physicians statewide, who will distribute them to patients and parents.

The effort is part of the "Image Gently Campaign: Working to Change Practice," which was initiated in 2007 by the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging. DOH is partnering in this campaign to heighten patient and parental awareness of potential radiation exposure risks from CT procedures and encourage the medical community to use low radiation dosages when imaging children.

"CT imaging is an effective and widely used diagnostic tool, but it should be performed in a manner that reduces any undue risks to patients, especially children," said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "Parents should be aware of radiation safety issues for children and talk to their physicians about which imaging options are appropriate for their child."

The pamphlet "What Parents Should Know About CT Scans for Children: Medical Radiation Safety" includes basic information about X-rays and CT scans, their associated risks, and optimal scanning strategies to reduce these risks. Parents can also use the "My Child Medical Imaging Record" cards to track dates and locations of imaging exams, along with the pediatrician's name and contact information.

DOH and many health care organizations advocate practices to reduce radiation exposure in pediatric imaging, including: using alternative, non-radiation diagnostic imaging procedures such as MRIs and ultrasounds when possible; limiting multislice CT imaging to specified areas and avoiding multiple scans; determining the lowest dose of radiation based on factors, such as a child's age and size, that will produce a high quality image; and encouraging CT facilities to obtain accreditation from the American College of Radiology Computed Tomography accreditation program.

"Physicians should carefully weigh the benefits of multislice CT scans versus alternative medical imaging procedures when treating children and limit radiation dosages whenever possible," Commissioner Daines said. "As the use of CT scans continues to grow, we need to ensure that a child's safety remains the top priority."

A CT scan uses X-ray imaging from sources that rotate around the body to create a 3-dimensional, cross-sectional picture of an organ, bone, or other body part. CT scans provide higher resolution and greater details than a traditional X-ray, but also expose the patient to higher radiation levels. Multislice CT scanners provide faster, better quality imaging than a single-slice CT, but also deliver higher doses of radiation.

The number of CT scans performed in the United States is increasing 10 percent to 15 percent annually, and has grown from 3 million scans in 1980 to 62 million in 2006. Approximately 7 million CT exams are performed on children each year, including 33 percent on children under the age of 10.

The new educational materials are available on the DOH website at: http://www.nyhealth.gov/environmental/radiological/radiation_safety_guides/image_gently.htm