CT Technologists Work to Prevent Impacts on Children

CT TechnologistsCT technologists play a crucial role in a new campaign encouraging the appropriate use of computed tomography (CT) scans of children with minor head injuries.

The concern is pediatric patients are much more sensitive to radiation than adults. In fact, babies and children are three to four times sensitive, according to a study that appeared in the International Study of Preventive Medicine.

The Think-A-Head campaign was launched last November by a number of physicians organizations, including the Image Gently Alliance, American Academy of Pediatrics, and American College of Emergency Physicians, as well as allied medical organizations.

The campaign focuses on helping health providers and parents effectively communicate when CT scans may or may not be the best option to gain a proper diagnosis. Advocating for the patient and performing the right test are key aspects of the CT technologist's job, according to Emilee Palmer, a registered CT technologist and supervisor at the Westerville Medical Campus in Ohio.

Palmer is also a member of the American Society of Radiologic Technologists and served on the committee that helped shape the campaign.

Since CT technologists are the ones who are actually operating the equipment, they're responsible for selecting the pediatric protocol, Palmer said. In an adult medical facility, where CT technologists perform tests on older patients, it's crucial to stop and think before performing a CT scan on a child.

"You're the one getting the order, making sure it matches, and then making sure it's the appropriate test for the patient," she said. "And sometimes that means questioning the physician. Sometimes people are afraid to do that."

CT technologists who primarily image adults may also be less experienced when working with pediatric patients. "It's a completely a different world with kids," Palmer said. "Kids don't know how to lie there and hold still like your adult patients do."

The availability of this information means that the parents and adult patients, too, may have more questions about the procedure. Medical providers need to be ready to explain more fully what a CT scan entails and possibly offer alternatives, such as MRIs, which do not use radiation, or skull X-rays, which use less radiation.

When a CT scan is necessary for children, experts recommend that technologists “child-size” the amount of radiation used, do not overscan, set protocols for pediatric patients, and create a team approach for working with parents.

While this may be second nature for CT technologists who regularly work with pediatric patients, "it's a good reminder," Palmer said, "even for the pediatric facilities, to stop and think and make sure you're making the right choice, whether it's necessary or not necessary, and if it's the right test, why."

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