Radiation from head CT in childhood causes no cognitive issues later

Among the misgivings raised by the contemporary spotlight on imaging-related radiation exposure is whether head CT of children might affect their brain health down the road. In a spinoff study at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, it did no such thing.

The researchers published their findings online May 7 in Acta Radiologica.

Magnus Kaijser, MD, PhD, and colleagues followed up with 147 patients (67 girls/women, 80 boys/men) who had participated in a previous randomized controlled trial on management strategies after mild head injury.

Some of the patients had received head CT, while others were observed in the hospital without imaging.

The patients ranged in ages from 6 to 16 at first evaluation and from 11 to 24 at follow-up.

The Karolinska team used multiple neuropsychological measures for the follow-up assessment. These included motor speed and coordination, reaction time, selective attention, visuospatial ability, executive function, and verbal and non-verbal short-term and long-term memory.

Analyzing the results, Kaijser and colleagues found that the radiation-exposed and -unexposed groups did not differ in any of the neuropsychological measures.

Further, results did not change when sex, age at time of injury/exposure, and age at assessment were factored into the analyses.

“A head CT examination at the age of 6 to 16 years,” the authors conclude, “does not seem to affect later cognitive functions.”