Radiation Exposure Practices for Children continued 

The risk of radiation exposure from electronic devices for children is much greater than that for adults. Logical? Sure. But more consequential than we might think at first.

Children have smaller brains with softer tissue than that of adults. Children’s characteristic body size and composition have prompted doctors and researchers to advocate for reduced exposure to radiation in a variety of ways.

In the forefront in this movement is the Image Gently Alliance. This worldwide coalition of organizations promotes safe, high quality pediatric imaging. It is a not-for-profit operation under the Society for Pediatric Radiology. According to Dr Donald Frush, Professor of Radiology and Vice-Chair of Radiology at Duke University Medical Center, “The primary objective of the Alliance is to raise awareness in the imaging community of the need to adjust radiation doses when imaging children. The ultimate goal of the Alliance is to change practice.” Just as with pills, radiation exposure must be adjusted, appropriate to ages.

 Parents may choose to not allow their child to be exposed to radiation via electronic devices. However, X-rays are often necessary. Image Gently promotes exposing children to smaller doses of radiation, and they also promote restricting medical images to those that are absolutely necessary. These images should capture as little of the body as necessary for treatment. In other words, only expose children to radiation if it is crucial, and in doing so expose only what is vital.

When asked about medical innovations in relation to what the Alliance does in the healthcare field, Dr Frush highlighted advancements related to all imaging devices. Rather than endorse specific imaging devices, Image Gently aims to provide information on radiation doses, research-based strategies for using equipment, and potential risks.

The tissues in are children softer, and they are more sensitive because of their growing bodies. The younger a child exposed to radiation is, the greater his lifetime cancer risk. Radiation poisoning is most often accompanied with gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting, in the short term. Long-term effects include, but are not limited to, cancer, benign tumors, and cataracts. Therefore Dr. Frush advises, “The minimum amount of radiation should be administered for a good picture in order to look at a structure.” He explained that CT scanner tubes are more sensitive when rendering a sharper image. He likened the advancements to those we have with images in high-definition televisions. Software that enhances pictures also works in conjunction with the array imaging equipment types or technologies.

Image Gently Alliance works towards their goals with education. Radiologists are instructed on how to perform studies safely. Image Gently addresses day-to-day questions and misunderstandings in nuclear medicine, such as what controls are necessary, and what risks are associated with imaging. This allows for more fruitful research.  Techniques and strategies for doing a study that promotes child safety in medical imaging are shared. Parents are given answers to frequently asked questions. In addition to the risks medical imaging has for children, Image Gently helps the general public to understand what the exam is, how much radiation should be administered, whether there is reason for concern, or if it is necessary. Another concern is the necessity of the medical community staying current. “Information is now available that wasn’t there 10 to 15 years ago.”

People must question if there is consistency, if doctors and researchers are being held accountable, for the doses given to children, and if there can be standards of practice that will be upgraded as needed. For families with children who have experienced radiation poisoning, research indicates increasing consumption of plant-based foods is helpful in reducing effects. Examples of easily accessible foods to give children: cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, garlic, onions, avocados, and kale. Offer them green tea to drink. Fruits high in pectin, such as apples, are good too.

New components of our daily lives, like fast food and electronic devices, make life simple, but they also present complications. We constantly must question how human ingenuity affects our youth, and generations to come. Image Gently advocates for “child size” doses of radiation, because they believe there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to imaging in the medical field. 

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