Protecting pediatric patients

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Children are more sensitive to radiation exposure than adults. Depending on their age, organ, and tumour type, children are reported to be, on average, two to three times more sensitive to radiation than adults, and the younger the infants or children, the more radiosensitive they are at high doses. So, the potential risks of ionising radiation in paediatric patients need to be considered. Physicians should exercise caution when using ionising radiation to image or treat children. In nuclear medicine, a lower administered activity than that would be used for an adult may be used; acceptable images could still be obtained as the size of a child is typically smaller than that of an adult.   For diagnostic radiology, the following should be taken into consideration: (1) select the most optimised imaging protocol based on the patient’s age and size; (2) repeat imaging, or phases (e.g. CT), need to be justified relative to the importance of the additional information being gained vs the additional radiation dose; and (3) only image the indicated area. ICRP Publication 121 Radiological Protection in Paediatric Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology and ‘Image Gently’ (www.imagegently.org) provide more details. It is worthwhile to note that where applicable, non-ionizing radiation imaging modalities may be considered.


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