Aussie Doctors ordering too many unnecessary X-rays for kids

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The Royal Australian College of Physicians is urging doctors to reconsider ordering unnecessary and potentially harmful X-rays for children.

The 2017 NPS MedicineWiseChoosing Wisely Australia Campaign’, an initiative that brings the community together to improve the quality of healthcare through considering tests, treatments, and procedures where evidence shows they provide no benefit or, in some cases, lead to harm, launched on Monday, September 25, 2017, added 25 recommendations from medical organisations this year.

The 25 new recommendations bring the total recommendations to 160 over the past two years.

Speaking to AAP, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) Paediatrics and Child Health Division President, Dr Sarah Dalton, said more attention was needed to ensure X-ray tests were used only when clinically necessary in children.

“Our list urges medical professionals to reconsider the need to routinely order X-rays for the diagnosis of bronchiolitis and asthma, as well as non-specific abdominal pain, in children.”

According to Dr Dalton, research has shown that only one-in-every-100 X-rays performed in children to identify bronchiolitis leads to a change of treatment for the child, who warned frequent X-rays can actually place a child at harm.

“One of the studies showed that if you do 100 X-rays for children with bronchiolitis it will only change the treatment course for one child.

“Unfortunately, what we see is that so many of these children that come in to emergency departments with breathing problems and are having chest X-rays that doesn’t really change the treatment that we offer, but it does put them at risk of the radiation that is associated with the X-ray, and that is what we are trying to stop,” said Dr Dalton.

Although Dr Dalton recognises the valuable role X-rays can play in confirmation of a diagnosis, she urged her colleagues to consider whether they are indeed necessary, before ordering them.

“I encourage my colleagues to pause for a second and ask, ‘Is this X-ray really necessary?’” Dr Dalton said.

She also called for parents to enhance their understanding of X-rays, while adhering to the course of action prescribed by a healthcare professional.

“The challenge is working out when they’re needed and when they’re not. For any parents who might be concerned about the idea that ‘less can sometimes be more’, I would say to them, we want to make sure we are only ordering a test when it is medically beneficial for your child,” said Dr Dalton.

To learn more about Choosing Wisely and their recommendations, head here.