by Brendon Nafziger
, DOTmed News Associate Editor | October 17, 2011
Black and Hispanic children are less likely to receive a CT scan following a mild head injury than white children, according to a new study. However, unlike many demonstrations of unequal-access-to-care in medicine, in this case, it seems it's not the minority children who are getting too little care, it's the white children who might be getting too much, the researchers say.
"In this low-risk population, higher rates of cranial CT may represent overuse in white children, leading to increased radiation exposure and health care costs," Dr. Alexander Rogers, lead author of the study, said in a statement.
The abstract, which tracked about 40,000 kids with head trauma in a special pediatrics emergency trauma unit, was presented Friday at the American Academy of Pediatrics' annual conference in Boston.
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In the study, nearly 14,000 kids underwent a CT scan for head trauma. The researchers said there was no significant difference among ethnic or racial groups for whether a kid with serious trauma, and at high risk for clinically important brain injuries, would get a CT scan. But white children with minor trauma, and deemed at the lowest risk for injury, were more likely to get a scan, the researchers said.
CT scans are one of the most effective ways to find out if a head injury has led to bleeding or other significant damage, but they also expose children to "appreciable" amounts of ionizing radiation, the researchers said.
"The cause of this disparity is likely multi-factorial, but this study highlights the importance of strong, evidence-based guidelines to assure equal and optimal care," Rogers said.
The abstract is "Cranial CT Use for Minor Head Trauma in Children is Associated with Race/Ethnicity."