If a CT is indicated, Smith-Bindman says, be explicit that you’d like that test done at the lowest dose possible – with the doctor who’s ordering it, the technologist who’s doing it and the radiologist who’s interpreting it. When deciding whether to consent to a CT for you or child, here's what to ask:
- Is the test medical necessary? If so, do I need it now or can it wait?
- Extent of the test: Are you doing the chest, abdominal and pelvis? Do you need all of those, or do you only need one?
- Will my child receive the right dose for his or her size?
- For cancer survivors, families may need to decide whether to do follow-up tests near home or stick with the children’s hospital, Ritzwoller says. If so, ask: Will low-dose CT be available at the local hospital? Are radiologists well-versed in pediatric doses?
- Is there an alternative test? Smith-Bindman, who just did a study comparing CT and ultrasound for spotting kidney stones, found the latter test was just as accurate.
- Is it possible to do a single-phase rather than a multiple-phase CT exam?
- To make an informed decision, Smith-Bindman says, ask the medical team: "Help me understand what the benefit is so I can balance it against the risk."
- Besides asking if the exam is necessary, parents should also ask why it’s necessary and whether the results will change the child’s care, Miglioretti says.