X-rays and other advanced radiological techniques can provide doctors with vital information to treat their patients. But, as you likely know, x-rays utilize radiation that can increase cancer risks. This can be an serious risk for infants that are born prematurely and often require multiple radiological examinations. While proper shielding and protection is vitally important to protect this neo-natal population, a story in the New York Times says that too often these protections are not in place.
The Times article reports that in at least one hospital, full-body x-rays on premature infants had happened often and that radiation levels on CT scanners were set too high for infants. These full body x-rays on premature infants are referred to as 'babygrams' and have been largely discredited because of the risk of radiation to the babies.
In one instance, the infant had been received about ten, full-body, head to toe, x-rays without any gonadal or other shielding. In an email to his colleagues the head of the pediatric radiology department at the New York hospital where this took place described this as, "Full, unabashed, total irradiation of a neonate" which he described as a "poor, defenseless baby."
The doctor in charge of the pediatric radiology department put an end to the frequent use of the dangerous babygrams, and instituted strict policies regarding the use of radiation on new-born infants. But the hospital failed to make the required reports on the incidents to state health officials.
In our next post, we will look at why the issue of over radiation of newborns is a wider problem than just errors at a single hospital, and the unsuccessful legislation to more highly regulate the technicians who administer the x-rays.
Source: The New York Times "X-Rays and Unshielded Infants" WALT BOGDANICH and KRISTINA REBELO, February, 27, 2011