Why and when to use CT in children: perspective of a pediatric emergency medicine physician.
The Emergency Department is a risk-laden environment for clinicians caring for children. A number of factors can increase the risk of medical errors and adverse events, including lack of standardized medication dosing because of size variation in the pediatric age range, unique physical and developmental characteristics of children that affect treatment strategies, and the inability of young or non-verbal children to provide a medical history or to clearly communicate pain and other symptoms. The Emergency Department (ED) setting is often hectic and chaotic, with lots of interruptions. Many EDs lack the pediatric-specific supplies deemed essential for managing pediatric emergencies, and long hours or overnight shifts, while necessary for maintaining 24-hour emergency services, can cause provider fatigue that can lead to increased medical errors. It is in this environment that ED physicians make decisions about the use of CT scans in children, often without evidence-based guidelines to help them weigh risks and benefits. Although recent efforts have raised the awareness of the risk of exposure to radiation, many pediatric providers and families lack adequate information to guide decisions about the use of CT. Pediatricians and emergency physicians need to collaborate with radiologists to maintain current knowledge of the risks and benefits of CT scans, to advocate for pediatric protocols and evidence-based guidelines, and to engage families in decisions regarding the evaluation and treatment of pediatric patients in the Emergency Department.
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