Friday, February 13, 2009

Image Gently

The December 7, 2007 entry of this blog addressed a controversy over the safety of computed tomography scans, particularly for children. In response to these concerns, the Society for Pediatric Radiology, the American Association of Physicists in Medicine, the American College of Radiology, and the American Society of Radiologic Technologists have banded together to establish the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging. Its "image gently" website states that
"The Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging--the Image Gently Alliance--is a coalition of health care organizations dedicated to providing safe, high quality pediatric imaging nationwide. The primary objective of the Alliance is to raise awareness in the imaging community of the need to adjust radiation dose when imaging children.

The ultimate goal of the Alliance is to change practice.

The Alliance has chosen to focus first on computed tomography (CT) scans. The dramatic increase in the number of pediatric CT scans performed in the United States in the past five years and the rapid evolution, change and availability of CT technology and equipment well justify this Alliance strategy."
Image Gently offers reasonable recommendations to parents, pediatricians, radiologic technologists, and medical physicists about the risks and benefits of CT scans. While asserting that "there's no question: CT helps us save kids' lives!", it nevertheless provides specific suggestions for reducing radiation dose, such as: "child size the kVp and mA"; "one scan (single phase) is often enough"; and "scan only the indicated area". Image gently offers such calm, science-based advice on a subject often dominated by emotion and a misunderstanding of risk assessment. You won't find much physics at the image gently website, but you will benefit from a case study in how to use physics to help patients without scaring them (or hurting them) in the process.

After exploring the image gently website, if you want to know more about how computed tomography works, or about the biological effects of radiation, see Chapter 16 in the 4th Edition of
Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology.

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