Networks on Radiation Protection of Children

Introduction

Children have higher radiation sensitivity than adults and have a longer life expectancy. Recently raised concerns about repeated and unnecessary use of relatively high dose examinations, such as CT in children, require specific focus. A number of studies have demonstrated that there is scope for strengthening justification and optimization of these procedures.

Based upon experience gained through the Asian Network of Cardiologists in Radiation Protection and Network of Gastroenterologists in Radiation Protection the IAEA has now established networks for Radiation Protection of Children in different regions. The Asian Network on Radiation Protection of Children was established in a meeting held in Bangkok from 15 to 17 December 2010, while a European network was initiated in Varna, Bulgaria, during a meeting held from 30 August to 1 September 2010.

The Alliance for Radiation Safety in Paediatric Imaging, Image Gently, is cooperating with the IAEA in this activity. The two organizations support each other’s efforts to enhance radiation safety of children.

Mission

To ensure a rational and safe practice of radiation exposure in children of IAEA Member States, and to propagate the message of radiation safety of children in compliance with international standards, national regulations and recent scientific knowledge.

Actions and Mechanisms

The driving force for the project is the need to strengthen justification and optimization.

  1. Justification: Surveys have shown that there is a significant and systemic practice of inappropriate examination in radiology, leading to unnecessary exposures of many patients, thus highlighting the absolute necessity for improvements in justification of medical exposure.  This issue requires effective solutions to ensure that justification at the individual level is achieved in compliance with appropriateness criteria developed by professional societies, and that responsibilities among referring medical practitioners and radiological medical practitioners are duly exercised.
  2. Optimization: Once the procedure is justified, each examination should be performed with optimization using the as low as reasonably achievable principle.

The following actions and mechanisms shall be utilized by the group:

  1. Networking through electronic means. Working as a group with shared goals, using knowledge to motivate others;
  2. Liaise with national radiation protection authorities, ministry of health and professional societies to create a national network, organize training sessions, develop guidance and disseminate the message;
  3. Make impact at grass root level, select nodal hospitals to initiate actions and proceed in a phased manner to cover other hospitals;
  4. Form position statements that can be disseminated through the Radiation Protection of Patients (RPOP) website and through professional and social networks, as appropriate;
  5. Organize sessions in national and international conferences on radiation protection of children;
  6. Create a newsletter for dissemination through the RPOP website;
  7. Create awareness about the issue by means of public information;
  8. Provide guidance material for on-the-spot use such as stickers on X ray machines, charts for referring physicians, links to important websites, etc. Promote the use of child-size protocols and other elements of good practice (immobilisation, shielding, good communication…) when imaging children;
  9. Encourage the promotion of the use of evidence-based referral guidelines for radiation imaging in paediatric radiology;
  10. Set up mini expert panels on specialized topics which can be consulted on an urgent basis and hold panel meetings as and when necessary.

Interaction

A network would only be successful if different health care professionals (radiologists, paediatricians, technologists, medical physicists and national authorities in ministry of health and in radiation regulatory bodies) work together with the same goals.

Outputs

The desired output is to provide documentation that there has been an improvement in radiation doses to patients in Member States without affecting quality, and a reduction in unjustified radiological examinations.



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