We all know there is a high level of concern in the news when it comes to X-rays, MRIs and CAT scans, specifically if someone needs to have them more than once in a short period of time. So how do you know when your kid really needs a CAT scan if they get a head injury?
A recent study, published in Pediatrics, looked at 40,000 kids who had head injuries and were taken to 25 different emergency rooms. They looked at how many of the kids got X-rays or CAT scans, versus those who only got observed. Then, among those who were just observed, how many of those kids ended up needing a CAT scan or X-ray, and how many had a serious condition.
This can be a tricky issue because the CAT scan is taken to find out the severity of the injury or to rule out a fracture of the skull or a major bleed in the brain. The CAT scan doesn’t diagnose a concussion, which is what a lot of patients and physicians are worried about.
The study showed that about one out of three children who had a head injury ended up getting a CAT scan, and even in the group that was delayed, one in three of them ended up getting the CAT scan eventually. The good news here is that it’s clear that not every child needs one and it appears doctors are doing a pretty good job picking out which kids need one and which kids don’t.
Even though it seems doctors are doing a good job, it’s important to remember that even if just one out of 100 children has a serious injury like a fracture or a bleed, it NEEDS to seen. So what is the right thing to do for your child?
Obviously you need to make that decision with your doctor and it is situational, but remember it has a lot to do with the severity of the symptoms and the accident that has occurred, and in some cases, observation is an okay idea initially to try to cut down on the risk of radiation exposure. The best person to make that decision though is the physician caring for your child. If they ultimately determine that a head CAT scan is needed for a child, we, as parents and physicians, would concur.