Radiation exposure is a concern in both adults and children. However, these concerns are greater for children because they are more sensitive to radiation and have more years to live than adults. As a result, accumulated exposures over a child's lifetime may be more likely to result in an adverse health effect.
A child's smaller size must also be considered whenever they have an x-ray procedure. For example, if an x-ray procedure or CT scan is performed on a child using the same settings as those used on an adult, an unnecessarily large dose will be delivered to the child. Equipment settings can (and should) be set to deliver a lower dose while, at the same time, maintaining diagnostic image quality.
Like any medical test, the beneficial information gained from the test should outweigh the risk of having the test performed. Medical imaging is a very powerful and valuable technique that can provide important and even life-saving information. You can reduce radiation risks and contribute to a successful examination by addressing these issues with your doctor:
- Imaging tests like ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be adequate substitutes for radiological techniques, like a CT scan, but without exposure to radiation. You should ask your doctor and imaging provider whether these alternatives are appropriate.
- You should keep a "medical x-ray history" with the names of your radiological exams or procedures, the dates and places where you had them and the referring doctor. Make your current doctors aware of your medical x-ray history.
- If radiological imaging is best for the situation, make sure that your health care provider uses the lowest appropriate dose and best shielding techniques to minimize unnecessary radiation exposure during the test.