Reducing Radiation Exposure for Kids Without Reducing Quality

Children are more sensitive to radiation exposure and have a longer life ahead of them in which to manifest the effects of exposure. That’s why the Department of Pediatric Radiology at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital is committed to lowering radiation exposure for children. From utilizing the latest equipment for quicker studies to performing patient exams at the lowest radiation exposure necessary, your child’s safety is our priority.

What You Should Know About Radiation

  • While no large-scale studies on cancer risks from diagnostic radiation exist, data from the Japanese A-bomb survivors exposed to low levels of radiation suggests that frequent exposure to the low levels of radiation may increase the risk of eventually developing cancer, particularly if the person is young.
  • Radiation is often measured in units known as sieverts. A threshold typically used is 100 thousandths of a sievert, or 100 millisieverts (mSv). Below 100 mSv, don’t worry; above that number, we think you’re at increased risk. Our average radiation dose at the University of Michigan is now 9 mSv.
  • Look for an imaging facility that is accredited and physicians who are board-certified, which will increase chances for the best study at the lowest dose.
  • Your child doesn’t have to have any examination recommended. However, it’s a tradeoff: If you agree to the exam, you get the diagnostic information needed. If you don’t agree to the exam, you save the radiation, but don’t get the diagnostic information.
  • The most important message regarding radiation is that of relative risk. Children are virtually always better off having a needed imaging study than avoiding the modest radiation associated with it.

Taking Big Steps to Lower Radiation

We have pursued several important measures to minimize radiation exposure to kids without sacrificing image quality, including:

  • Our Physics Quality Control Group works in conjunction with radiologists and technologists to identify and purchase imaging systems with features that minimize radiation dose.
  • Use x-ray equipment specifically developed for pediatric patients, which includes being sized for smaller bodies and utilizing reduced doses of radiation.
  • Digital X-ray detectors, special X-ray beam filters, and other new technologies reduce radiation doses in radiography, mammography, and fluoroscopy.
  • Utilize more sensitive nuclear medicine imaging equipment (such as single photon emission computed tomography and positron emission tomography scanners) lets us use smaller doses of radiotracers (a radioactive molecule used in certain imaging tests to help find problems in the body).
  • We limit the region of the body being scanned/ x-rayed to the smallest possible area.
  • Tailor examinations to the size of the patient, from the smallest newborn to the largest teenager.
  • Test all systems to ensure they’re performing correctly.
  • Focus on ways to further reduce radiation exposure through ongoing research with our Engineering Department. 

Lowering Radiation from CT Scans

CT (computed tomography) studies – known as a CT scan or CAT scan – have skyrocketed in popularity because they are an extremely effective tool in the diagnosis and management of disease, utilized for everything from identifying areas of the brain affected by strokes and head injuries, to detecting abnormalities of the lungs, to diagnosing abdominal diseases such as appendicitis, to assessing coronary artery disease. In ERs, CT exams are the tool of choice because of their speed and diagnostic accuracy.

Measures taken to reduce radiation from CT scans include:

  • Our CT equipment has been specifically developed for pediatric patients, which includes being sized for smaller bodies and utilizing reduced doses of radiation.
  • We recently replaced the CT scanner in Pediatric Radiology with a new GE HD 750, which employs a new method of image reconstruction that allows us to decrease CT radiation doses up to 50% without a substantial loss in image quality. It’s a great advance for lighter-weight and pediatric patients.
  • Customized scanning is based on the size and weight of the child or the body part being scanned.
  • We’ve eliminated unnecessary exams.
  • Our Radiation Exposure Registry, currently in development, will provide benchmarks for determining the optimal level of radiation for each CT exam.
  • In a Blue Cross Blue Shield quality improvement study of 40 hospitals and imaging practices, called the Advanced Cardiovascular Imaging Consortium, our Cardiac Computed Tomography team reduced our average CT radiation exposure by 43 percent.
  • We will utilize MRI or ultrasound, if either is considered an effective alternative.

Accreditation Is Important for Radiology Centers

Always ask if the imaging facility has been accredited. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has approved three bodies to accredit diagnostic imaging programs: the American College of Radiology, the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission and The Joint Commission. (Only one of the three accrediting bodies is required to accredit a facility.) There are five requirements for accreditation:

  1. Personnel qualifications for non-physician medical staff, medical directors, and supervising physicians
  2. Image quality
  3. Equipment performance
  4. Safety standards for staff and patients
  5. Quality assurance and quality control

So far, this accreditation process is mandatory for outpatient facilities only, but it is very likely to become mandatory for hospitals, too. The University of Michigan has received American College of Radiology accreditation for many of our facilities already, both in the outpatient setting and at the hospital. Soon, all of our facilities will be accredited.

Schedule an appointment by calling us at 734-936-4500