Health Team

Parents should monitor CT radiation exposure for children

Posted March 7, 2011 5:33 p.m. EST
Updated March 7, 2011 6:39 p.m. EST

— Like many other children his age, 6-year-old Noah Curtice is very active, even fearless. In October 2009, he tried sliding down a banister at his house, but he flipped and fell straight on his head.

"(He) fractured his skull about six inches on the left side," said Gretchen Curtice, Noah's mother. "We were in the ICU for about four or five nights."

Accidents like Noah's can mean repeated CT scans, which deliver a dose of radiation.

"I remember them saying that they're probably going to have to take several of the scans to make sure that the bleeding on the brain wasn't getting worse," said Noah's father, Pete Curtice.

Dr. Margaret Douglas, a pediatric radiologist at WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh, said CT technology has improved dramatically over the years, but parents should still be aware of how much radiation their child is exposed to.

"We were getting better and better pictures, but the dose being delivered was going up," Douglas said. 

She added that children under 10 are more sensitive to radiation, so radiologists should use the lowest possible dosage. But parents need to ask to make sure, she said.

"As a parent, I would be asking, 'Does my child need this? Is there an alternative?'" Douglas said.

Ultrasound and MRI technology don't use radiation, and may be a healthier alternative for certain pediatric problems.

"With appendicitis, often we'll start with an ultrasound," Douglas said.

Luckily for the Curtice family, Noah is getting better every day.

"You'd never know he ever had any kind of accident. Fortunately, kids' heads heal well," Pete Curtice said.

For more information on the risks of radiation exposure, click here.