CT utilization: the emergency department perspective.
CT scan utilization in the pediatric emergency department (ED) has dramatically increased in recent years. This likely reflects the improved diagnostic capability of CT, as well as its wider availability. However, the utility of CT is tempered by the high radiation exposure to patients as well as cost. In this review we will consider the magnitude of changes in CT use in the pediatric ED, and we will examine some of the driving forces behind these increases. In addition, we will consider strategies to limit growth in CT scan utilization or even result in reductions in CT use in the future. These strategies include better physician and patient education, application of existing clinical decision rules to reduce CT utilization and development of new rules, technical alterations in CT protocols to reduce per-exam exposures, use of alternative imaging modalities such as US and MRI that do not expose patients to ionizing radiation, and expanded use of clinical observation in place of immediate diagnostic imaging. Reform of liability laws might alleviate another driving force behind high CT utilization rates. Protocols must be designed to maximize patient safety by limiting radiation exposures while preserving rapid and accurate diagnosis of time-sensitive conditions.
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