Child Orthopedics

Frequently Asked Questions

We are trying to keep our children from being exposed to a lifetime of radiation. Whenever possible, we avoid X-rays at the dentist or the doctor's. But one of our sons broke his lower leg. During the operation, they used a type of X-ray called fluoroscopy. How dangerous is this type of radiation?

Fluoroscopy is a fairly new imaging technique. It is used by physicians to get real-time images of the internal structures of a patient.

The fluoroscope used has an x-ray source and fluorescent screen. The patient is placed between these two parts of the device. Images are sent via a video camera to a monitor where the surgeon can see them in full view.

Fluoroscopy is a form of x-rays, which involve ionizing radiation. It's this ionizing radiation that has potential risks. Knowing this, the surgeon only uses this device when the benefits of the procedure outweigh the possible negative effects.

Physicians and surgeons who use fluoroscopy always try to use the lowest dose rates possible. Besides exposure to the patient, there is also exposure to the surgeon and staff. And they are exposed for each patient treated.

Improved technology has made it possible to digitize images and reduce the radiation dose even more. For procedures to repair lower leg bone fractures, the average length of time children are exposed to radiation is between 42 and 70 seconds. In some cases, the total time may be as much as two minutes.

Ralf Kraus, MD, et al. Elastic Stable Intramedulllary Nailing in Pediatric Femur and Lower Leg Shaft Fractures. In Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics. January/February 2008. Vol. 28. No. 1. Pp. 14-16.

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