Many imaging technologies use ionizing radiation, so our team strives to keep the dose as low as reasonably achievable without compromising the image quality needed to make a correct diagnosis.
Years of experience and research have shown that it is not necessary to use adult-sized doses of radiation to obtain high-quality images in children. That's why we calibrate all of our X-ray-based equipment and adapt protocols in a way that minimizes each patient's exposure. And that's why members of our team are leading a national effort to educate radiologists and parents about the importance of pediatric dosing during computed tomography (CT), nuclear medicine and interventional radiology (IR) exams.
The U.S. population is now exposed to seven times more ionizing radiation from medical procedures than it was in the early 1980s, largely because of greater use of CT and nuclear medicine, according to the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements. CT scans deliver higher doses of radiation than X-rays, but when used properly, they can provide important and sometimes life-saving information.
The Boston Children's Difference
All of our radiography equipment, including plain X-ray and computed tomography (CT) units, is state-of-the-art and specially designed or adapted for pediatric use.
- We regulate our equipment to keep radiation exposure as low as reasonably achievable (the so-called "ALARA" principle). We are always looking for ways to improve our disease-specific protocols and further reduce the amount of radiation we use.
- Sometimes it is possible to reach a diagnosis by using imaging technologies that do not involve ionizing radiation, such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). When appropriate, our pediatric radiologists will advise referring physicians that this is the safest course of action.
- Radiology nurses, technologists and support staff are specially trained to keep children safe and comfortable at all times. Parents are encouraged to be with their child during CT scans and other studies whenever possible.
- Our staff knows that infants and children often need more time to become comfortable with imaging procedures than adults. As a result, we take the time needed for each child to feel at ease.
- Our faculty and staff are researching new ways to obtain better quality images with reduced radiation doses.
Read more about the hospital's commitment to radiation safety
The "Image Gently" Campaign
Michael Callahan, MD, a pediatric radiologist and director of CT, and radiological physicist Keith J. Strauss are key members of the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging. The Alliance has launched "Image Gently," an ambitious campaign to educate radiologists, technologists, and parents on the need to lower and limit the exposure of children to radiation during medical imaging tests. The Alliance's website,ImageGently.org features FAQs for parents, medical professionals, and the media.