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Study: Monitoring Can Reduce Use Of CT Scans for Brain Injuries

Many brain injuries among children can leave large bruises or even head wounds big enough to require stitches, as some Boston parents may have experienced. But most minor head injuries do really not need a CT scan, which some experts might agree are used too frequently to check on head injuries that are of no risk to the brain.

According to The Boston Globe, a study by the journal Pediatrics indicates the use of CT scans could be reduced by half for kids who have suffered moderate injuries that cause a concussion or vomiting with just careful monitoring for a couple of hours in the emergency room.

CT scans are most helpful in cases involving serious accidents among kids, such as a car crash where a child is not wearing a seatbelt, to check for potential skull fractures and brain bleeds.

However, Dr. Lise Nigrovic of Children's Hospital Boston noted that 30 to 40 percent of kids who come into the ER for a head injury typically fall under the "moderate" category, which means they suffered injury from less serious circumstances with milder symptoms, like a headache.

Nigrovic also said 40 percent of children have been exposed to radiation from CT scans and X-rays over a period of 3 years, although a CT scan has hundreds of times more radiation than an X-ray. While the risk of a developing cancer from CT scans is rather small - about 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 5,000 - it is still enough to raise concern over using them only when medically needed.

"Careful observation may be an effective strategy for reducing CT use," said Nigrovic. "These are very powerful tests that deliver high amounts of radiation with potential risks to children." By cutting down CT scans, unnecessary health care costs may also be reduced, added Nigrovic.

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