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Can CT scan cause damage to the brain ?

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Practicing since : 2002
Answered : 2565 Questions
NOTE: I want this query to be answered by an ONCOLOGIST, for some reason the form is telling me I selected an Orthopedic Surgeon, Thank you

Hi Doctor,
I am really concerned about my son.

He is a 4 year old autistic boy very healthy, energetic and is doing great despite his diagnosis. Last friday he went to the local YMCA for swimming class and when he was called to go to the pool he run to it without shoes, so he feel down pretty bad on his face hitting his face very strong.
He scratched his face on the side of his eye and got swollen, he kept complaining, so we went home and he started throwing up.
After he did that three times I decided to take him to the Hospital ER, where they had X-Rays done, the results didn't rule out a fracture since the saw what they called a flare on the image and recommended a CT scan.
They needed my approval since he would be exposed to radiation, they said it is nothing proven to be bad for him, I didn't have any options or time to research so I accepted.
He was there only for like 10 minutes and the results were good meaning no fracture.
After I got home I started to look in the internet for CT scans on little kids and I started to freak out, there is a lot of pages saying that it shouldn't be used in kids for these reasons:
1- Kids are more susceptible to the radiation.
2- The machines are usually calibrated for adults and not for kids so the amount of radiation is way more than necessary in kids.
3- the amount of radiation is more than 500 (incredible) the amount of an X-ray.

As you can understand I am having a really hard time accepting that probably I exposed my boy to a future huge health problem and for nothing since he didn't have anything.

All this happened in the Burbank (Los Angeles area) Hospital which is pretty big and modern.

Please Doctor help me understand what really happened and what should I do.
I am really depressed and anxious about all this, this little one is my life.

Thank you
Posted Mon, 7 May 2012 in X-ray, Lab tests and Scans
Answered by Dr. Robert Galamaga 7 hours later
Hello and thank you for your query,

Let me provide you with some information and reassurance here regarding your question. I can first of all tell you with good certainty that you most assuredly did not create a situation which will lead to any short term or long term side effects in your child. There have been no reliable, statistically significant studies which show any evidence that a CT scan such as the one which your child had will lead to any general health problem including cancer or organ dysfunction.

I realize that you are very concerned about this and I urge you to avoid internet sources such as bulletin boards or blogs as these are notorious sources of misinformation.

Now, regarding the scan - I agree with the physician who ordered it - it was indicated in the setting of trauma which he suffered. The CT scan is the only good way we have to assess the brain for possible bleeding. This can even pick up tiny bleeds which may otherwise go undetected until it is too late to intervene.

Try not to think of this as something you did to your son's detriment. You did something to assure his safety and health in fact! This CT scan will have no impact on the length or quality of his life. I can assure you of this.

Again, I thank you for your question. I hope my answer has been both helpful and informative. Should you have additional followups I am available to address the,.


Dr. Galamaga
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