In Australia, many children and young people under the age of 20 have a computed tomography (CT) scan each year. CT is a valuable diagnostic tool, providing doctors, dental practitioners and other health professionals with non-invasive, fast and accurate information to help diagnose serious injury and illness and inform treatment.
CT scans are of benefit in a wide range of clinical situations – they provide a diagnosis in an emergency situation where immediate imaging is required, or when high quality bone detail is necessary to assess complex fractures or planning for surgery. However, these benefits also come with increased exposure to ionising radiation.
International evidence has indicated that exposure to ionising radiation potentially increases cancer risk. A recent study1 has indicated that there is a higher risk of a person developing cancer in later life if they were exposed to ionising radiation from a CT scan as a child. This evidence confirms the importance of ensuring that imaging is only performed when clinically necessary, at radiation doses as low as possible.
To support a reduction in unwarranted radiation exposure to children and young people from CT scans, the Commission has developed a range of resources and is promoting existing resources to inform the referral and provision of CT scans for children and young people. This work, funded by the Australian Government Department of Health, was undertaken in consultation with the states and territories, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), medical colleges, professional bodies and peak groups that work in the area of child health.
To support all people involved in the CT patient journey, the Commission has partnered with Healthdirect Australia to establish a web page – www.healthdirect.gov.au/ctscansforkids, dedicated to hosting resources on CT scanning for children and young people, and includes sections for parents and carers, referrers, medical imaging providers, dental practitioners and patients.
ARPANSA is also undertaking complementary work to develop a national online Radiation Protection of the Patient (Medical Imaging Safety) Module for referrers. This module deals only with radiation safety, with the aim of supporting clinical practice.
1. Mathews JD, Forsythe AV, Brady Z, Butler MW, Goergen SK, Byrnes GB, 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.