Excellent Idea of the Day: Kids' Hospitals

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The expertise of a children's hospital is important when it comes to diagnosing kids via X-ray versus ultrasound.

If you want to reduce the odds of a child getting an X-ray and being exposed needlessly to radiation, take them to a children's hospital.

That's the upshot of a recent study that looked at children who had been evaluated for appendectomies at a children's hospital as compared with a general hospital.

When kids get diagnosed with appendicitis, often it's via X-rays -- specifically, CT scans. But CT scans expose children to more radiation than many doctors would like.

There is one solution: ultrasounds. But most children won't get those unless they do go to a children's hospital, since not a lot of general hospitals can afford the specialized expertise needed to interpret them.

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The study, conducted by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and published in the journal Pediatrics looked at 423 children who had had appendectomies at St. Louis Children's Hospital. Of those, 205 were initially evaluated at general hospitals and 215 at Children's.

Some 85 percent of patients who went to a general hospital to be evaluated got CT scans before surgery, and 45 percent of children initially seen at St. Louis Children's Hospital had had CT scans. Meanwhile, over half of children initially seen at St. Louis Children's Hospital got ultrasounds, while at general hospitals the rate was 20 percent.

Seven percent were not scanned at all and 15 percent got both ultrasound and CT.

The authors of the study noted that even though reading an ultrasound is a bit harder, it's probably worth finding a way to do them for more patients, especially children.

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