X-Ray Safety became a major concern for me after my daughter broke her elbow two years ago at the playground.
It was relatively serious. The bone had to be manipulated back into place at the OR, under general anesthesia.
She’s fine now. But the injury was bad enough, that we were asked by the orthopedic surgeon to return for a follow-up X-ray every six months. He says that because of the trauma to the bone, it could stop growing at any time, and that would require immediate action.
Today, she had her fourth X-ray.
I trust her surgeon. He’s the very best. The hospital – Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford – is the very best. We discussed X-Ray safety, and the surgeon said the amount of radiation is minimal. It goes to her arm and not to internal organs. Her abdomen is protected. He says not to worry.
But my child is being exposed to radiation every six months.
Today he told me he wants to see her once a year from now on.
I asked, again, about X-ray safety. He reassured me, again.
“But what if I just don’t bring her in anymore? I mean, what would be more risky? Stopping the follow-ups or exposing her to radiation?”
He maintained that the X-Rays are safe.
My own research supports this: the radiation from an X-ray to the arms or legs exposes a person to a few days’ worth of natural radiation (from sources such as the sun). The additional risk of cancer per examination is considered negligible, at less than 1 in 1,000,000.
I marked the date in my calendar and thought: I wish she could make this decision for herself. I hate that I have to make this decision for her. I know that X-rays are considered safe. But there are so many things that doctors and scientists THINK they know, only to find out later they were very wrong. And what if these minimal, safe, recurring amounts of radiation join other factors and cause cancer, many years from now?
I may be paranoid and overprotective. The X-rays may be completely harmless. As parents, we are used to making everyday decisions that affect our children. We HAVE to make these decisions for them. But sometimes, the responsibility for another person’s well-being, for another person’s life, feels like too much.
What would you do?
Photo credit: Brixton