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Researchers develop new predictive rule to decrease children’s risk when undergoing CT scans

 A new diagnostic method can dramatically reduce the use of CT scans on pediatric patients, which reduces their risk of cancer later in life. The study came out of a three-year multi-site study that included researchers at the University of New Mexico.

The study was published this month in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. It showed how a method created by researchers in the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network could decrease the use of CT scans on pediatric patients by more than 50%.

This means decreasing their chances of developing several types of cancer in the future. The study found more than eight million children are evaluated annually for spinal neck injuries, but less than 1% actually have them.

Dr. Robert Sapien, principal investigator of the study for UNM Hospital, said injury in children is very common, especially when it comes to the neck. He says that by coupling this approach with a physical examination of the injury, doctors now have scientific backing to better recommend either not getting the CT or going through with the scan.

"So, it doesn’t really say yes, no, it says these are the risks, this is the percentage. And then that helps the parent decide more comfortably" said Sapien.

Sapien said that with this study, he hopes that hospitals without specialty training in pediatric emergency care can use this prediction rule tool to care for children in a more consistent way.

"Not only does it help decrease the radiation it also gives the providers a great deal of support" Sapien said.

Over 22,000 children were enrolled in the study, which took place over three years in 18 pediatric emergency rooms. Sapien is hopeful the findings will mean the number of children undergoing CT scans will decrease.

This coverage is made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners.

Taylor is a reporter with our Poverty and Public Health project. She is a lover of books and a proud dog mom. She's been published in Albuquerque The Magazine several times and enjoys writing about politics and travel.