A recent study by the Washington University School of Medicine in St.
Louis, published in the journal Pediatrics, bears this out. If a patient went to St. Louis children's hospital they were more likely to be checked with an ultrasound than with a CT scan.
The study covered 423 children who had appendectomies at St. Louis Children's Hospital. Of the 423, 205 were initially evaluated at general hospitals and 215 at Children's. Some 85 percent of patients who went to a general hospital to be evaluated got CT scans before surgery, and 45 percent of children initially seen at St. Louis Children's Hospital had CT scans. Meanwhile, over half of children initially seen at St. Louis Children's Hospital got ultrasounds, while at general hospitals the rate was 20 percent.
Seven percent were not scanned at all and 15 percent got both ultrasound and CT.
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The authors of the study noted that even though reading an ultrasound is a bit harder, it's probably worth finding a way to do them for more patients, especially children. That said, it isn't clear whether what applies at a children's hospital, with a lot of experts in diagnosing kids, is transferable to general hospitals. The other factor is what happened to those patients whose scans, either ultrasound or CT, ruled out the need for an appendectomy - an important question to answer is whether they showed symptoms afterwards, needed an appendectomy later, or were healthy.
In the meantime, the takeaway seems to be that if you want to reduce the odds of a child getting exposed to radiation via an X ray, take them to a children's hospital.
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