In new guidance, FDA recommends that medical X-ray imaging exams be optimized to use the lowest radiation dose needed. These exams, which include computed tomography (CT), fluoroscopy, dental, and conventional X-rays, should be performed on children and younger patients only when the health care provider believes they are necessary to answer a clinical question or to guide treatment, FDA writes.

While the FDA defines the pediatric population as birth through 21 years old, the optimization of image quality and radiation dose in X-ray imaging depends more on a patient’s size than their age. Technically, the patient’s body thickness is the most important consideration when “child-sizing” an image protocol.

FDA urges health care professionals to ensure there is justification for all X-ray imaging exams performed on pediatric patients. They should also consider whether another type of imaging exam that does not expose the patient to ionizing radiation, such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging, could be used to obtain the same result.

The FDA encourages health care professionals and hospital administrators to refer to guidelines and instructions provided at the agency’s Pediatric X-ray Imaging web portal.