CT Scans Come Under Fire in New FDA Proposed Guidelines

Posted on May 14, 2012

The Food and Drug Administration wants to crack down on the overuse of medical devices that they say might expose children to unnecessarily high amounts of radiation.

Last week, the agency released a brand new set of proposed guidelines that would make devices such as CT scans safer for young children.  Among other things, CT scans are typically ordered by doctors who believe that a child may have sustained trauma to the brain.  The device has become increasingly common in recent years due to its improved detail over the average X-ray.  However, these same scanners expose children to heightened amounts of radiation, potentially putting children at risk of getting cancer.

Although many scanners have systems in place that allow the overseeing physician or care practitioner to adjust the amount of radiation, it’s currently not possible to keep track of how often an adjustment is indeed made, as 90% of the tests ordered occur in general hospitals.

The FDA has allowed for comments to be posted for four months before they decide whether they’re going to make the guidelines official.  If the guidelines do become standard, then all new medical imaging devices will need to come with explicit directions on how to keep kids of varying ages and sizes safe from radiation.  Dose adjustments by a simple button press are also recommended.  Existing scanners would need to, over time, be upgraded so that they fall in line with the new scanners being brought to market under the established guidelines.

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