What the FDA’s X-Ray Guidance Changes Mean for Parents

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released new guidelines for x-ray imaging in pediatric patients. The guidance intends to reduce unnecessary radiation exposure by educating imaging manufacturers, parents, pediatricians, and other health care professionals.

X-ray imaging has many benefits, but there are risks associated with them.

As with any medical procedure, there are risks and benefits to x-ray imaging. Because the benefits can be great (and even life-saving), doctors often decide the scans are worth incurring the risks associated with them, the most concerning of which is cancer.

There are two main cancer concerns with x-ray imaging. The first is that children are more radiosensitive than adults. This means that children have a higher cancer risk per dose of ionizing radiation than adults. This sounds scary, but if doctors keep these doses to the lowest possible levels, the risk is very small.

The other cancer concern is simply that young patients have a longer lifespan ahead of them than adults. This means that statistically, they have a greater chance of developing cancer from radiation exposure than adults. Again, by reducing exposure to the lowest necessary level, this risk is very small.

The FDA has suggestions for reducing radiation exposure without giving up x-rays entirely.

The new guidelines highlight steps physicians and imaging manufacturers can take to reduce pediatric exposure to radiation. For instance, doctors should base the radiation dose optimization on a patient’s size or weight — not their age. Smaller patients require less radiation to produce a usable image, so the dose should be reduced accordingly.

Many imaging devices can be optimized for children and younger patients. However, these instructions may not be clear. The FDA urges manufacturers of x-ray imaging devices to make these instructions easier to find and use. The new guidelines also want manufacturers to develop better safety features to mitigate risks to children.

What can parents do to help?

After learning the potential risks of excessive radiation exposure, parents may feel nervous about x-ray imaging altogether. Keep in mind, these risks are small and can be reduced even more by doing the following:

  • Keep records of every x-ray imaging your child has. Doctors may be able to use a previous x-ray in some cases or they may choose to use an alternate form of imaging if the child has already had numerous x-rays taken.
  • Ask your pediatrician about the risks versus benefits and if another form of imaging (e.g. MRI or ultrasound) would be a suitable substitute.
  • Inquire at the imaging facility if they use reduced radiation based on a child’s size.

By being as informed as possible, you can reduce the already small risk to your child even farther. To read more, see the consumer update on reducing pediatric radiation exposure from the FDA.

You and your child’s pediatrician may decide on an x-ray, mri, or ultrasound to give the best ratio of benefits versus risks. Whatever imaging technology you need, call BestPriceMRI.com at 888-322-7785 to find a safe and affordable imaging center.