New resources help parents and clinicians better understand the benefits and risks of CT scans for children and young people

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The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (the Commission) has today released a range of resources aimed at reducing unnecessary radiation exposure to children and young people from computed tomography scans (CT scans).

Over 80,000 CT scans are performed on children and young people in Australia each year.1 CT scans are a valuable diagnostic tool of benefit in a wide range of clinical situations. However, they use a higher level of ionising radiation than other types of imaging and their use on children and young people has been linked to a slight increase in the risk of developing cancer later in life.2

Professor Villis Marshall, Chair of the Commission, said “The resources we’ve developed with our partners are designed to provide guidance for those involved in the pathway of care – from parents and carers, to the referring doctors and dentists who request CT scans, and the imaging professionals who perform them.”

Professor Susan Moloney, Staff Specialist and Director of Paediatrics at the Gold Coast University Hospital said “It is important to remember that a CT scan which is warranted, will almost always result in more benefit than harm to most patients. However, these resources will help ensure that CT imaging is only performed when clinically necessary with radiation doses that are as low as possible.”

Professor Marshall had this message for parents and carers: “If your child needs a CT scan, or has had one in the past, don’t be alarmed. It’s important to talk to your doctor about the benefits and potential risks associated with CT scans.”

Brochures for parents and carers outlining the benefits and risks of CT scans are available now at general practices, dentists, medical imaging centres and early childhood health centres across Australia. These brochures and their companion posters also provide useful questions parents and carers can ask their doctor, specialist or dentist about CT scans and are available at

A fact sheet for referring doctors has also been updated to provide information on the typical radiation doses and the key questions to consider when deciding whether to refer a child for a CT scan. To support radiographers who undertake CT scans for children and young people, the Australian Institute of Radiography has developed an online training module.

All the resources mentioned, and many others dedicated to CT scans for children and young people, are available now through Healthdirect, which has also partnered with the Commission to develop this valuable resource. See

This work was funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and is supported by partnerships with Healthdirect Australia, NPS MedicineWise, the Association for the Wellbeing of Children in Healthcare, Australian Institute of Radiography, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists, Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, Australian Dental Association, Australian and New Zealand Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons  and Australian Society of Orthodontists.

1. Based on 2013–14 financial year Medicare data; does not include patients imaged as public inpatients.

2. Mathews JD et al. Cancer risk in 680,000 people exposed to computed tomography scans in childhood or adolescence: data linkage study of 11 million Australians. BMJ.2013;346:2360