Medical Imaging
Medical Imaging

Medical Imaging

The Children's Mercy Medical Imaging department offers diagnostic imaging equipment especially designed to accommodate children of all ages and sizes. Our Kansas City-area facilities and diagnostic imaging equipment are designed to alleviate fears and provide services with minimal need for sedation or restraint.

Diagnostic Imaging Staff

Our team includes a team of board-certified and fellowship-trained pediatric radiologists and qualified technologists who provide a safe and comfortable diagnostic testing environment for pediatric patients. Our pediatric radiologists, technologists, sedation team and child life specialists are experts at alleviating fears.

Medical Imaging Safety

The decision to perform any imaging test is based on many factors and it is easy to second-guess decisions after the fact, especially when the results are normal. For the situation described here, a CT would be performed to exclude that there are no serious problems for the child. The very small risk from radiation exposure from this one exam is much less than the risk of missing a brain injury from his fall. If similar situations arise in the future, our staff are trained to recognize and determine if there are other methods of getting the same medical information that do not require radiation exposure, and if there are not, then which radiological examinations are necessary and how to ensure they are done with the lowest radiation dose.

Which type of medical imaging uses radiation?

Modern medicine provides us various types of advanced imaging to look inside your child’s body for diagnosis or to rule out a medical condition. Some of these imaging instruments (such as CT scans, nuclear medicine, and radiographic or fluoroscopic x-rays) produce radiation to obtain these images while others (such as ultrasound and MRI) do not. Each of these methods have their strengths and weaknesses. At Children's Mercy we use all of these methods, and while the key principle is to recognize which imaging tests are best suited for common clinical indications, our radiologists and care providers are trained to recognize when alternative methods such as MRI and ultrasound can be substituted for radiological imaging. 

How much radiation will my child receive?

The amount of absorbed dose received varies with each patient and type of examination. A CT scan, for example, delivers an effective dose of anywhere from less than 1 to around 10mSv, depending on the type of scan the patient receives. For example, the exposure from a head CT scan can be approximately 1 to 2mSv. And some procedures require multiple scans over a region, requiring higher doses. However, the total dose would still be considered low. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates the total annual average dose from natural background radiation to be 4.06mSv for residents of Missouri and 5.32mSv for residents of Kansas.[4] Hence a CT scan would deliver doses in the same range as your annual natural background radiation level, although in a much shorter time, and targeted to specific body parts, rather than to the whole body.

For radiographic exams, this dose is even lower. A chest x-ray for example can result in 0.02 mSv, which is less radiation than you receive on a round-trip flight from Kansas City to Los Angeles. An astronaut who travels on a mission to the International Space Station is estimated to receive around 100 mSv of radiation.

How does radiation exposure effect newborns?

Minimizing radiation exposure to the newborn is especially important, since the younger the child, the more sensitive their tissues are to the effects of radiation. However, in the complex medical scenario described, imaging is often vital to proper medical treatment. In a premature infant, chest radiographs are often necessary to make sure that life saving lines and tubes are in the proper place, and brain imaging is often needed to make sure that there is no brain injury that might need special treatment. Again, it is a balance between medical need and the very small future risk that most experts think exists for medical radiation. As far as her individual increased risk of getting cancer as she gets older, it is much smaller than the risks that we take every day, such as driving a car.

Is there an increased risk of cancer from medical radiation, especially CT scans?

While no one can point to a single individual and say that their cancer was caused by medical radiation, there is increasingly strong evidence that exposures to radiation levels found during some scans may slightly increase the risk of future cancer. The estimated risk for developing cancer is variable, but for every 1000 children undergoing a single CT scan of the abdomen for example, there will be 1 cancer caused by CT (risk of 1 in 1,000). This needs to be interpreted against the risk of developing cancer over one’s lifetime. For those same 1,000 children, 200 will eventually develop cancer regardless of exposure to medical radiation (risk of 1 in 5). So the additional risk is small, but the best available research indicates that there is in fact some risk.

If children are much more sensitive to radiation than adults, is it appropriate to use examinations like CT in children?

Lower doses are frequently warranted in children because of their smaller size and because they have a longer life expectancy than do adults, which may enable tumors with long latency to develop. For a body CT scan of a baby, the amount of radiation used should be approximately 20% of that used for an adult.[6] Appropriately adjusting the radiation dose for children has been a major area of focused attention and improvement over the past 10 years. The “Image Gently” campaign, which Children's Mercy has pledged to, as well as other efforts have been effective at bringing this issue to the attention of the imaging community, referring physicians, and parents of our patients. 

Why Use Imaging Services at Children's Mercy?

Some hospitals and imaging facilities that perform radiologic scans on adults use the same techniques when scanning children. Children's Mercy is a pediatric-specific facility that uses imaging instruments dedicated to imaging children. All our CT scanners are state of the art and recently purchased, and are accredited by the American College of Radiology (ACR), as are our technologists and radiologists. 

Accredited by the American College of Radiology
To achieve the American College of Radiology (ACR) standard of accreditation, our facility's personnel qualifications, equipment requirements, quality assurance, and quality control procedures have gone through a rigorous review process and have met specific qualifications. It's important for parents of our patients to know that every aspect of the ACR accreditation process is overseen by board-certified, expert radiologists and medical physicists in advanced diagnostic imaging. In short, accreditation of our imaging facility entails:

  • Our facility has voluntarily gone through a vigorous review process to ensure that we meet nationally-accepted standards of care.
  • Our personnel are well qualified, through education and certification, to perform medical imaging and interpret your child's images.
  • Our equipment is appropriate for the test or treatment your child will receive, and our facility meets or exceeds quality assurance and safety guidelines.

Resources for Patients and Families

Provider Resources

The articles below are part of the Image Gently Campaign and inform clinicians about commonly requested, but misunderstood, imaging studies.

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