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Pediatric imaging solutions are delivering big benefits to small patients

by John W. Mitchell, Senior Correspondent | June 08, 2015
CT MRI Rad Oncology Pediatrics Primary Care X-Ray
From the June 2015 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

The Image Gently campaign provides information and free educational materials to every member of the care team and maintains an extensive website chocked full of information. “CT gives clinicians much more useful information now than in its early days back when I was a medical student,” says Dr. Marta Hernanz-Schulman, professor of radiology and pediatrics at the Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, and chair of the Pediatric Imaging Commission at the American College of Radiologists.

She is one of a group of pediatric radiologists, led by Dr. Marilyn J.Goske, who worked to create the Image Gently campaign. “But if CT is what a pediatric patient needs, it has to be used judiciously, with the lowest amount of radiation possible. We protocol every study we do and tailor the technique to the patient’s needs.”

Hernanz-Schulman explains that radiation concerns are based on the study of Japanese populations exposed to nuclear explosions in World War II, although the understanding of how this data equates to imaging studies remains imperfect. However, she indicates that exposure in children is of concern because children are in a constant state of development; their cells are dividing, which exposes the DNA and renders it more vulnerable to radiation damage. Because children have more opportunity to receive imaging scans over their lives and cancers have an opportunity to lay dormant for a longer period compared to adults, reducing pediatric exposure to medical radiation has become a universal point of focus for specialists and equipment manufacturers in the field.

“While I think there is a growing awareness about the issue of medical radiation exposure, most parents don’t ask any questions about the CT procedure their child is about to undergo,” says Washington University School of Medicine’s Siegel. “I might get one question a month. This may reflect the fact that referring pediatricians and primary care doctors are doing a good job educating the parents and child that we really need the information a CT scan will give us. I also think our technologists, who meet and greet the patients and parents and perform the actual tests, are helping to educate and calm parents.”

The right people for the job
This highlights the importance of proper staffing. According to information released by the Society for Pediatric Radiology this spring, there are 20 new pediatric hospitals under active planning or construction, with seven major expansions underway in the U.S. and Canada. The demand for properly trained technologists is increasing.

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