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Parental Knowledge of Radiation Exposure in Medical Imaging Used in the Pediatric Emergency Department

Hartwig, Hans-David R. MD; Clingenpeel, Joel MD, MPH; Perkins, Amy M. MS; Rose, Whitney BS; Abdullah-Anyiwo, Joel BS

doi: 10.1097/PEC.0b013e3182949066
Original Articles

Objectives We sought to quantify the knowledge base among parents and legal guardians presenting to our pediatric emergency department regarding radiation exposure during medical imaging and potential risks to children resulting from ionizing radiation. We sought to examine if a child’s previous exposure to medical imaging changed caregiver knowledge base and discern caregivers’ preference for future education on this topic.

Methods A prospective convenience sample survey was performed of caregivers who presented with their child to our tertiary pediatric emergency department. Parents or legal guardians (18–89 years) who accompanied a child (0–17 years) were eligible for inclusion and approached for enrollment. A structured questionnaire was administered by trained interviewers, and a chart review was conducted to ascertain if their child had a history of previous imaging.

Results Sixty percent of caregivers interviewed (n = 205 of 340) did not associate any long-term negative effects with medical imaging. Among participants who did express a perceived risk from medical imaging radiation exposure, only 50% could indicate a known negative effect from exposure. We found no significant association between a child having had documented imaging studies and awareness of long-term negative effects (P = 0.22). Participants preferred to learn more about this topic from an Internet-based resource (50%), informational pamphlet (38%), or via treating physician (33%).

Conclusions Parents and legal guardians are largely unaware that exposure to radiation during medical imaging carries an inherent risk for their child. Health care providers wishing to educate caregivers should utilize reliable Internet sources, educational pamphlets, and direct communication.

Supplemental digital content is available in the text.

From the Department of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters, Norfolk, VA

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.:

Reprints: Hans-David R. Hartwig, MD, Department of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters, 601 Children’s Lane, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Norfolk, VA 23507 (e-mail:

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© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.