A new scan technology at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC monitors children diagnosed with scoliosis, while exposing them to much lower levels of radiation than traditional methods.
Children diagnosed with scoliosis, a condition that causes a curvature of the spine, need regular monitoring as they grow. An X-ray is the most common tool used to monitor changes in the spine. The EOS device at Children’s Hospital reduces radiation exposure by up to 90 percent.
Scoliosis Detection and Monitoring
We don’t know the cause of most cases of scoliosis, but the condition often appears in pre-teen boys and girls. Regular monitoring is critical for those with childhood scoliosis.
- A primary care doctor may notice that one shoulder is higher than the other or spot a change in spinal curve during your child’s annual checkup.
- He or she would then refer your child for an X-ray to find out what’s happening. When your child has been diagnosed with scoliosis, doctors will monitor them to make sure the curve doesn’t worsen as they grow.
- Children with scoliosis are usually monitored every three to six months, said Sheila Moore, MD, clinical director of Pediatric Radiology at Children’s Hospital.
- These regular scans help doctors plan treatment and make sure the spinal curve doesn’t interfere with your child’s health or day-to-day life.
- In severe situations, a child may need to have surgery to correct the curve.
Scoliosis Testing: Putting Radiation Exposure into Perspective
At Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, your child receives care at the Spine Deformity Center.
Dr. Moore said as children develop, a main concern for both boys and girls is their developing breast tissue absorbing radiation from X-rays.
Though there is no evidence that regular X-rays cause harm, Dr. Moore said radiologists try to reduce doses whenever possible.
“Parents don’t need to be worried, though, if their child has already had multiple X-rays,” she said.
Radiation exposure is part of our natural environment, and we absorb it from multiple sources from the sun to brick buildings. To help put the doses in perspective, Dr. Moore provides some comparisons: A regular spine X-ray delivers about 2.5 millisieverts (mSv) of radiation, which is equivalent to spending about a year in the sun.
By contrast, the first EOS scan provides a macro dose of about 0.5 mSV. Each follow-up scan receives a micro dose of about 0.06 mSv, or the equivalent of spending a week in the sun.
How Does the EOS Machine Work?
It looks like a machine from a sci-fi movie, but the EOS device for scoliosis monitoring is convenient and easy to use.
- As you stand on the inside of the machine, you can see light travel down your body as it performs the scan.
- Doctors use the data from the scans to build 3D images of your spine. These images help your doctors have a better understanding of the shape of your spine—so they can better plan treatment.
- When surgery is needed for scoliosis, images from the EOS machine help the surgeon develop a detailed plan for how to correct and repair the spine.
- The EOS device can also be used to monitor conditions that cause spinal deformity and orthopaedic injuries or issues, such as different leg lengths or growth plate fractures.