Recently, a study conducted by UC Davis investigated the use of CT, or computerized tomography, scans in children in emergency rooms. The study found a difference in the decision-making process for ordering CT scans for children with minor head trauma based on race.
According to the study, when children were admitted to the emergency room after suffering minor head trauma, white children with little risk of brain injuries were more likely to receive CT scans than their Hispanic and African-American counterparts.
In these cases, the CT scans can actually cause more harm than good, as research has shown that the likelihood of a child developing certain types of cancer increases with the number of CT scans he or she receive as a youth. While the risk is still very small, children under 15 who receive two or three CT scans are three times more likely to develop brain cancer. If they receive between five and 10 scans before age 15, they are three times more likely to contract leukemia.
The study's lead author concluded, "In many instances, doctors appear to be responding to parental anxiety rather than medical evidence." Based on the results, doctors in the emergency room indicated "parental anxiety or parental requests" were the reason for ordering the CT scans for 12 percent of the cases where white children presented with minimal risk of brain injury. Comparatively, such a reason was noted as a factor in approximately 5 percent of cases involving Hispanic or African-American children.
The lead author of the study noted, "Our findings highlight that medically irrelevant factors can affect physician decision-making in a way that could harm the patient."
Notably, the study found there was no difference in the number of CT scans ordered for children who had a high risk of brain injury. Across the races, CT scans were ordered appropriately for children facing a serious risk of injury.
Source: Medical Xpress, "White children more likely to receive CT scans than Hispanic or African-American children," August 6, 2012.
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