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Hospitals take precautions to protect children from radiation

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AKRON, Ohio - There aren't too many things more frightening for parents, than sending a child off to surgery.  As nervous as the Hagan family of Fremonth, Ohio, was for their daughter Samantha's heart ablation procedure, they were relieved to know she be wouldn't exposed to radiation, which carries a lifelong risk of cancer.

"That's one less stress to worry about," said Greg Hagan, Samantha's father.

As director of the Arrythmia Center at Akron Children's Hospital, Dr. John Clark has developed a procedure to fix irregular heartbeats without using radiation.  Instead of using X-ray to get a look inside, he uses a GPS-like device to navigate the heart, reducing the average X-ray time from about 40 minutes to less than 2.

"If you are a child and you get exposed to radiation you've got a much longer time to show the consequences of that to develop a cancer that is secondary to that radiation," said Dr. John Clark.

A study in the journal Pediatrics has found the increased use of CT scans, which emit radiation, contribute to more than 4800 cases of cancer in children each year.  Since developing his nearly radiation-free technique eight years ago, Dr. Clark has trained about a dozen other doctors nationwide. Five hospitals have since adopted the method.
 
"As a medical community, we need to look at these kind of concepts and find out ways where can we go, where we still need CT scans. We still need radiation for therapies, but in what ways can we replace X-ray, to get the same diagnostic tools we have to minimize the amount of radiation that the country is getting," said Dr. Clark.

When X-ray and CT scans are unavoidable, the hospital system practiced image gently, delivering the lowest dose of radiation possible to a patient.

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