Pediatric radiation exposure during the initial evaluation for blunt trauma

J Trauma. 2011 Mar;70(3):724-31. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e3182092ff8.


Background: Increased utilization of computed tomography (CT) scans for evaluation of blunt trauma patients has resulted in increased doses of radiation to patients. Radiation dose is relatively amplified in children secondary to body size, and children are more susceptible to long-term carcinogenic effects of radiation. Our aim was to measure radiation dose received in pediatric blunt trauma patients during initial CT evaluation and to determine whether doses exceed doses historically correlated with an increased risk of thyroid cancer.

Methods: A prospective cohort study of patients aged 0 years to 17 years was conducted over 6 months. Dosimeters were placed on the neck, chest, and groin before CT scanning to measure surface radiation. Patient measurements and scanning parameters were collected prospectively along with diagnostic findings on CT imaging. Cumulative effective whole body dose and organ doses were calculated.

Results: The mean number of scans per patient was 3.1 ± 1.3. Mean whole body effective dose was 17.43 mSv. Mean organ doses were thyroid 32.18 mGy, breast 10.89 mGy, and gonads 13.15 mGy. Patients with selective CT scanning defined as ≤2 scans had a statistically significant decrease in radiation dose compared with patients with >2 scans.

Conclusions: Thyroid doses in 71% of study patients fell within the dose range historically correlated with an increased risk of thyroid cancer and whole body effective doses fell within the range of historical doses correlated with an increased risk of all solid cancers and leukemia. Selective scanning of body areas as compared with whole body scanning results in a statistically significant decrease in all doses.

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / etiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radiation Dosage*
  • Risk Factors
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / adverse effects*
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / diagnostic imaging*