Current Environment:

Dose matters

Many pediatric 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 pediatric 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.

Boston Children's Radiology and safety

All of our radiography equipment, including plain x-ray and 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 department also offers patients of all ages the opportunity to try their scan without anesthesia, when applicable. Read more about our Try Without Anesthesia Program.

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 and make an effort to have child-friendly exam rooms. We are always researching ways to obtain better quality images with reduced radiation doses.