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Doctor discussing CT scans with a parent and child

Doctor discussing CT scans with a parent and child
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CT scans - information for referrers

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In Australia, recent data show there are over 80,000 computed tomography (CT) scans performed annually on children and young people under the age of 20.

CT is a valuable investigative technique because it provides a low risk, non-invasive, fast and accurate method of diagnosing serious injury and illness.

However, CT also comes with an increased exposure to ionising radiation which has been linked to a slight increased risk of cancer.

Doctors and other health care professionals who refer children and young people for CT scans should be aware of this risk and discuss it with the patient and the parent or carer.

General information

  • General information on scans, the possible risks for children and the importance of ordering the most appropriate imaging modality is available in the fact sheet CT scans and children: information for referrers.
  • NPS MedicineWise also provides information for referrers on CT scans for children, including questions to consider.
  • The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists (RANZCR) has published resources to assist referrers of medical imaging, including:
  • The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (United Kingdom) clinical guidelines, Head injury: assessment and early management. These guidelines include clinical assessment algorithms for children who present to an emergency department with a head injury or cervical spine injury.
  • In February 2021, led by the Paediatric Research in Emergency Departments International Collaborative (PREDICT), a multidisciplinary working group developed the first Australian and New Zealand guideline for mild to moderate head injuries in children. The guideline provides evidence-based, locally applicable, practical clinical guidance for the care of children with mild to moderate head injuries presenting to acute care settings, including decision rules for CT Scans and repeat imaging.

Clinical decision support tools

  • The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) has developed an online learning module, Radiation Protection of the Patient for referrers of medical imaging. Australian GPs who complete the module may be able to earn CPD points for undertaking the training.
  • The Western Australian Department of Health has developed a clinical decision support tool and educational resource for diagnostic imaging, WA Diagnostic Imaging Pathways. This resource has been endorsed by RANZCR.
  • RANZCR has developed Education Modules for Appropriate Imaging Referrals which are designed for use in a health professional’s early career. The modules include detailed explanations of the evidence base, providing the background to, and demonstrating the appropriate use of, clinical decision rules.

More information

Learn more here about CT scans and radiation exposure in children and young people.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2021


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