X-rays, CT scans and magnetic resonance in children

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It is risky to undergo pediatric radiological and magnetic resonance examinations? We talk about it with Lorenzo Bianchi, Regional Coordinator of the Associazione Del Paesena Medical Physics of Lombardy and Head of the Complex Structure of Health Physics at the Circolo Hospital, Busto Arsizio (our city).

X-rays and CT scans in children


The smaller the child, the more sensitive he is to radiation

Compared to the adult, that of the child is an organism in rapid development and cell proliferation and for this reason it has a greater sensitivity to radiation, especially if addressed to internal organs, such as on the abdomen or head.

"This means that the younger the child, the more one must carefully evaluate whether the examination is really necessary or harmless alternatives are possible, such as ultrasound," Bianchi points out. If the examination is to be done, the radiologist can make sure to use the lowest possible dose of radiation to obtain images that are valid for the required diagnosis.

An x-ray of the limbs or teeth is much less invasive

On the other hand, it is no problem to undergo an X-ray of an arm or a leg in the event of a suspected fracture, because the radiation does not involve the internal organs of the child; even the classic panoramic view to the teeth is harmless, for example to put the device on, because the radiation dosage is really very low.

MRI in children

It is not harmful but it is difficult to perform on a child

The magnetic fields used in the resonance are not harmful to the child, however, in order for the resonance to give the required information, the child must remain still for a time ranging from 15 to 45 minutes. And holding a baby down for that long is very difficult, especially if it has to be placed in a closed machine.

Better to avoid sedating the baby

Sedation is not recommended, because it is always better for the patient to be alert in order to feel any discomfort, due for example to the possible overheating of some tissue involved in the examination: a rare event which, if it occurs, would require to be reported by the child.

Okay if the resonance is done in the limbs

Much less problematic is the resonance of a limb, which is done with open devices that allow the mother to be next to the child and therefore to help him endure the waiting time.

An online service to find out more

To clarify doubts about radiographs, resonances or CT scans, the Del Paesena Association of Medical Physics has opened an online book called The medical physicist responds, in which there are FAQs and answers; should the specific question not be answered, a pool of experts is available to respond via email to all doubts on the subject.

  • children's x-rays
  • tac children
  • MRI children
  • 1-2 children years
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