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Most Parents Underestimate Risks of CT Scans

7/8/2013 For Release:  July 8, 2013
There has been a significant increase in the number of computed tomography (CT) scans being performed on children, but do parents really know the potential risks involved in the procedure? In the study, “Parental Knowledge of Potential Cancer Risks From Exposure to Computed Tomography,” in the August 2013 Pediatrics (published online July 8), researchers interviewed parents whose children presented to the emergency department with an isolated head injury. Researchers were interested in determining how many parents were aware of the potential for an increased lifetime risk of malignancy after a child was exposed to ionizing radiation from a CT of the head. Of 742 parents, 357 were aware of the potential risks, largely due to recent increased media coverage on this topic. After parents were informed of the potential risks, willingness to proceed with a head CT if the doctor recommended it decreased from 90.4 percent to 69.6 percent. Most parents also thought that the radiation exposure from a head CT were similar to a regular x-ray, but in fact the radiation exposure from a head CT is 60- to 80-fold greater than that of a plain x-ray. Almost all parents expressed a preference to be informed of these risks prior to proceeding with imaging, and for about 95 percent of respondents, knowledge of these risks would not likely affect getting the CT scan if the doctor thought it was necessary.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.