Study: Children with headaches often get CT scans

By staff writers

July 10, 2013 -- More than 25% of children treated for headache across a range of care settings receive a CT scan, potentially exposing them to unnecessary radiation and an increased cancer risk, according to a large retrospective study published in the July edition of Pediatrics.

The study found that children evaluated in the emergency room (ER) were four times more likely to have CT scans than those children who did not go to the ER. However, the researchers also discovered widespread use of CT scans outside of the ER. In pediatric patients getting CT scans for headaches, 67% received their scans outside of the ER setting, according to the study.

The analysis included 15,836 children ages 3 to 17 years with at least two medical claims for headache, wrote lead author Andrea DeVries, PhD, from healthcare insurer WellPoint's HealthCore clinical outcomes research subsidiary, and colleagues (Pediatrics, Vol. 132:1, pp. e1-e8).

In a release, WellPoint noted that the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) recommends MRI scans instead of CT for people with headache and a normal history and neurologic examination. This recommendation was endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Radiology, WellPoint said.

The study found that AAN imaging guidelines were most often followed by neurologists when treating children, but not by other physicians, co-author Dr. Alan Rosenberg said in the statement.

Copyright © 2013

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