children's health

Too much radiation in child CT scans

Two Ontario hospitals have been exposing children to high levels of radiation,putting them at greater risk of developing cancer later in life, while performing CT scans.

The problem was found at the Peterborough Regional Health Centre and Grand River Hospital in Kitchener and raises questions about what is happening elsewhere in Ontario, said a report released by the auditor general.

“Staff at the two hospitalPublishs we visited … indicated that in close to 50 per cent of selected cases, the appropriate equipment settings for children were not used. The children were exposed to more radiation than necessary. We thought it was a pretty important issue … Our concern is there’s not enough awareness out there in the community.” Jim Mc Carter at a news conference at Queen’s Park.

Giving a small child an adult dose of radiation in a CT scan can actually deliver the same amount of radiation as 4,000 traditional X-rays, McCarter told a news conference at Queen’s Park.

The number of children affected was not available, but the risk increases as the number of CT scans rises because children’s organs are developing and more susceptible to damage.

“There’s a lot of research out there that increased exposure to radiation, over time, especially over decades, can cause radiation-induced cancer,” McCarter said, noting 94 per cent of pediatricians surveyed were unaware of how much X-ray radiation patients are bombarded with in a CT scan.

However, medical experts said CT scans remain valuable diagnostic tools because they use X-rays to create 3-D images of a patient’s insides, giving doctors a better view of head injuries, chest trauma, cancer and fractures.

McCarter’s report said hospitals need to improve their management and use of both CT scans and magnetic resonance imaging and noted that at some hospitals they were not being used on weekends.

The revelation about radiation doses put Health Minister George Smitherman on the defensive, with opposition parties demanding to know what worried moms and dads should do.

“They want to know, `Is my child going to be safe?'” Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory said.

Smitherman said the health ministry has been aware of the issue and formed a “diagnostic image safety committee” of doctors and experts from across the province last September to come up with standards and “do a more appropriate job” of tracking radiation levels.

“This is getting our attention,” he added.

Tory said a bulletin should be sent to all hospitals right away.

Later yesterday, an aide to Smitherman said the health ministry will be “communicating with hospitals to reinforce the issues raised in the auditor-general’s report.”

The Canadian Government is now trying to cover their butts by saying that their technicians are trained to tailor each dose to be the least possible for that size of patient. They also add that radiation doses are “not straightforward,” because younger children who move around more on the CT table will need higher doses to get a useful image than kids who lie still.

They do not want parents to stop their children from having CT scans they just want them to ask the people doing the scan if they’re using a pediatric protocol. This, I find laughable. If we were to question a scan tech as to whether or not they were doing their job properly – you would get a dirty look and some guaranteed attitude.

Our job, as parents, is to worry about every other issue our child has. It is the Government’s job to make sure that the people that look after our kids in these facilities do not make mistakes and that they receive regular upgrading of their skills.

This report has been in the Government’s hands for two weeks now. Why did they wait so long to address the issue??


About the author

Lisa Arneill

SAHM of 2 boys and founder of and World Traveled Family. When I'm not running around after my boys, I'm looking for our next vacation spot!

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