Objective: The purpose of our study was to determine how parents' understanding of and willingness to allow their children to undergo CT change after receiving information regarding radiation dose and risk.
Materials and methods: One hundred parents of children undergoing nonemergent CT studies at a tertiary-care children's hospital were surveyed before and after reading an informational handout describing radiation risk. Parental knowledge of whether CT uses radiation or increases lifetime risk of cancer was assessed, as was willingness to permit their child to undergo both a CT examination that their child's doctor recommended and one for which their doctor thought observation might be equally effective.
Results: Of the 100 parents who were surveyed, 66% believed CT uses radiation before reading the handout, versus 99% afterward (p < 0.01). Before reading the handout, 13% believed CT increases the lifetime risk of cancer, versus 86% afterward (p < 0.01). After reading the handout, parents became less willing to have their child undergo CT given a hypothetic situation in which their doctor believed that either CT or observation would be equally effective (p < 0.01), but their willingness to have their child undergo CT recommended by their doctor did not significantly change. After reading the handout, 62% of parents reported no change in level of concern. No parent refused or requested to defer CT after reading the handout.
Conclusion: A brief informational handout can improve parental understanding of the potential increased risk of cancer related to pediatric CT without causing parents to refuse studies recommended by the referring physician.