CT Scans and Children: Is There a Risk?

Friday, June 22, 2012 - 11:30am
Chair, Department of Neurosurgery and Director, Neuro-Oncology Program, RPCI

Earlier this month, a British study published in The Lancet revealed that computed tomography (CT) scans can raise the risk of brain cancer and leukemia in children later in life. The study may very well make some parents wonder about the necessity of a CT scan for their child and whether it’s worth the possibility of negative long-term effects.

The study itself was very well done, but I want to emphasize to parents that the risk factor, in this case, is still very low. The immediate benefits of a CT scan to a patient suffering from serious head injuries or neurological problems tend to outweigh the risks of cancer later in life. CT scans help diagnose and understand specific injuries, and their value should not be overlooked simply because of this study.

Although CT scans should be taken when necessary, it is also best to limit one’s exposure to radiation, whenever possible. Because each individual case is different, the decision to undergo a CT scan ultimately falls on the physician, the patient, and his or her parent. Any lingering concerns about CT scans should be addressed with the physician.

In the above video, I give further advice to parents concerned about the study, and what it means for their children. I also explain exactly what CT scans are and suggest a few possible alternatives.