MRI, Ultrasound Preferred Over CT Scan in Pediatric Patients

HealthDay News — The rate of computed tomography (CT) scans in children has dropped in the last decade, with a move to radiation-free magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and ultrasounds, according to research findings published in Pediatrics.

Michelle Parker, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati, and colleagues analyzed the records of more than 150,000 children admitted to 33 U.S. hospitals between 2004 and 2012. They calculated the rates of CT scans, ultrasounds, and MRIs the children underwent for 10 different types of problems, including seizures, appendicitis, concussions, respiratory infections, and abdominal pain.

Over those years, the use of imaging grew for children with nearly all symptoms and diagnoses studied. Only children with ventricular shunt procedures or nonbacterial gastroenteritis did not undergo more imaging tests. However, the proportion of each kind of test shifted during that time. The overall rate of CT scans dropped. Meanwhile, except for those with seizures or upper respiratory tract infections, the use of MRI or ultrasound increased. Use of CT scans for seizures dropped by almost half, and 10% fewer MRIs were used for children having seizures. Children with severe head trauma also saw a big drop in CT scan use.

Overall, the most common reasons children received CT scans included seizures; undergoing ventricular shunt procedures; removal of the appendix; or brain surgery, having a concussion, or another head injury. The use of ultrasounds increased most for appendectomy and gastroenteritis, according to the report.


  1. Parker MW et al. Pediatrics. 2015; doi:10.1542/peds.2015-0995.