Radiation exposure, and the cumulative radiation a child receives, continues to be a topic of research and study. The less radiation a child receives the better. Ultrasounds are an imaging modality that does not expose a child to radiation. There are more and more instances where ultrasounds are being used rather than X-ray or CT scans.
Pediatric ultrasounds are used to help diagnose appendicitis, pneumonia, congenital heart disease, abdominal masses, kidney disease, thyroid masses, testicular abnormalities and a host of other issues during childhood. The fact that an ultrasound machine is easily transported to an infant or child’s bedside is another reason that ultrasounds are utilized whenever possible.
Interestingly, bedside ultrasounds performed in the ER by trained physicians are now being utilized to diagnose simple forearm fractures. The most common of these fractures, which are common during childhood, is a “buckle fracture” (non-displaced fracture of the radius).
Ultrasound studies of the forearm in a child with a suspected fracture did not only seem more accurate but were timelier, and were also associated with less patient pain. Win-win-win.
It may be a while before this is the standard of care in every ER, but look for less X-rays and more ultrasounds over the next years. I wonder if one day there will be ultrasound machines in pediatric offices. Who knows?
(Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award-winning pediatrician, medical editor and media host. “The Kid’s Doctor” TV feature can be seen on more than 90 stations across the U.S. Submit questions at http://www.kidsdr.com. The Kid’s Doctor e-book, “Tattoos to Texting: Parenting Today’s Teen,” is now available from Amazon and other e-book vendors.)
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Erin O’Donnell is a freelance health and science writer, parent, and graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. Walks by Lake Michigan make her happy.