Image Gently campaign targets parents for 2009 initiative

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After a year of targeting medical imaging professionals for its Image Gently radiation dose awareness campaign, the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging this week is launching a new global campaign aimed at educating parents and pediatricians about the potential dangers of radiation dose.

Launched in January 2008, Image Gently has educated radiologists, radiologic technologists, and other imaging providers about the need to use pediatric-specific scanning protocols when imaging children, particularly during CT studies. Previous research has found that in many cases children received too much radiation because they were scanned with CT protocols that were designed for adults or weren't tailored for the body habitus of specific patients.

In 2007, more than 7 million CT scans were performed on children. Because of decreased body fat, increased radiosensitivity, and longer life expectancy, children are at increased risk of cumulative low-level radiation exposure. The true risk from low-level radiation remains unknown, so pediatric radiologists recommend that only medically justified exams be ordered, that imaging providers use the lowest-dose scanning parameters capable of providing a diagnostic study, and if appropriate, that examinations using nonradiation imaging modalities be substituted.

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Image Gently brochure educating parents about radiation safety. All images courtesy of the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging.
The alliance's guiding principle is to affect patient care and change practice through an educational and awareness campaign. Since its formation in January 2008, the alliance has grown from a core coalition of four U.S. professional associations to a worldwide coalition of 34 medical organizations. Each organization promotes the Image Gently campaign and its Web site to its members, a multidisciplinary constituency of more than 500,000 healthcare professionals.

The new initiative significantly broadens the Image Gently campaign, and it was launched because of the limited resources available for pediatricians and families regarding the appropriate use of CT scans and their potential risk for children, according to sources with the alliance.

Formal studies have documented that many adult patients have a poor concept of radiation dose and risk associated with CT. Some experts are concerned that parents may contribute to the escalating use of CT exams for children because they aren't aware of the potential risks.

With the new campaign, the alliance is encouraging radiology professionals to talk with pediatricians about the need to educate parents about exposure risks associated with CT exams, as well as to educate parents in the venues of radiology departments and imaging centers.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), headquartered in Elk Grove Village, IL, underwrote the costs to create two brochures, "What Parents Should Know About Medical Radiation Safety" and "What Parents Should Know About CT Scans for Children." The brochures are available for download and unlimited reproduction at and Spanish-language versions will be available soon, and the alliance is also working on translating the brochures into other languages.

In addition to the brochures and a new section of the Image Gently Web site developed specifically for parents, the alliance has created medical record cards for parents to record the diagnostic imaging procedures of their children. Hospitals, clinics, and pediatric private practices are encouraged to reproduce and distribute these cards to parents.

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Chart from medical record card for recording procedures.

"Tracking the type, number, and locations of examinations can help decrease the number of repetitive examinations, as well as being helpful in alerting families and their care providers to the issue of radiation safety," explained Dr. Dorothy Bulas, a pediatric radiologist at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC. Bulas led the development and rollout of the new campaign.

"Be your child's advocate. If you only know one thing about CT scans in children, let it be that there is a growing awareness of the opportunity to lower and limit dose in the CT imaging of children without compromising the diagnostic quality. That is the message we wish to convey," Bulas said.

By Cynthia E. Keen staff writer
February 3, 2009

Related Reading

Swiss pediatric CT survey leads to national dose standards, October 23, 2008

Study: Radiologists dial back on pediatric CT settings, October 4, 2008

FDA posts pediatric imaging advisory, June 25, 2008

Group advocates less radiation for kids, January 23, 2008

Teaching parents about CT risks might pare unnecessary scans in kids, December 28, 2006

Copyright © 2009

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