Increase in Pediatric CT Scans in Emergency Departments

Appropriate interpretation necessary as majority of scans done in nonpediatric facilities

WEDNESDAY, April 6 (HealthDay News) -- The use of computed tomography (CT) scans in children presenting to U.S. emergency departments (EDs) has increased five-fold from 1995 to 2008, and mainly occurs in nonpediatric facilities, according to a study published online April 5 in Radiology.

David B. Larson, M.D., from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, and colleagues examined national trends and factors associated with the use of CT in children's presentations to the ED between 1995 and 2008. Using data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, an average of 7,375 pediatric ED presentations a year were sampled to assess the number and percentage of patients younger than 18 years who received a CT scan.

The investigators found that the number of pediatric ED visits that incorporated a CT scan increased five-fold from 0.33 million in 1995 to 1.65 million in 2008, representing a compound annual growth rate of 13.2 percent. The percentage of ED visits correlated with a CT scan increased from 1.2 percent in 1995 to 5.9 percent in 2008 (compound annual growth of 12.8 percent). The number of visits correlated with a CT scan at pediatric-focused EDs increased from 14,895 to 212,716, and those in nonpediatric-focused EDs increased from 316,133 to 1,438,413.

"Our finding of a substantial increase in the use of CT in children who visit EDs in the United States underscores the need for special attention to this vulnerable population to ensure that imaging is appropriately ordered, performed, and interpreted," the authors write.

One of the study authors disclosed a financial tie with Toshiba Medical Systems.

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