Many Kids Exposed to Unneeded X-Rays, Study Finds

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WEDNESDAY, Dec. 3, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Many American children receive unnecessary chest X-rays, a new study indicates.

"Chest X-rays can be a valuable exam when ordered for the correct indications. However, there are several indications where pediatric chest X-rays offer no benefit and likely should not be performed to decrease radiation dose and cost," said study author Dr. Ann Packard, a radiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Researchers examined the reasoning behind 637 chest X-rays given to patients ranging in age from newborns to 17 years at the Mayo Clinic between 2008 and 2014. Of those X-rays, 88 percent did not influence treatment, the investigators found.

X-rays were conducted on children with problems such as chest pain, fainting, dizziness, cyclical vomiting, a general feeling of being unwell or under distress (spells). Another cited problem was a condition called "postural orthostatic hypotension," in which blood pressure drops suddenly when a person stands up after sitting or lying down.

Thirty-nine of the X-rays for chest pain were positive for pneumonia, bronchial inflammation, trauma or other conditions, according to the findings scheduled for presentation in Chicago Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. But chest X-rays had no effect on treatment for any of the children with fainting, postural orthostatic hypotension, dizziness, spells or cyclical vomiting.

Packard noted that limiting radiation exposure and costs are important objectives in health care.

"This study addresses both of these issues, which is important not only for physicians but also for young patients and their parents," she said in a society news release.

"I would like this research to help guide clinicians and deter them from ordering unnecessary exams which offer no clinical benefit to the patient," she added.

Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about chest X-rays.