Children's Hospital Colorado

Safety in Every Dose

A doctor holds a baby's arm during an examination.

While many adult hospitals have radiology and pharmacy departments, they aren't designed with kids in mind. Because we only see children, Children's Hospital Colorado has a number of safety measures in place to address a child's unique needs. 

Our experienced specialists understand the importance of having the proper imaging equipment and medication dosages specially designed to protect the safety of children.

Less exposure

Radiology services, such as X-rays, save lives by providing important information for diagnosing conditions and determining appropriate treatment. However, without using proper doses for smaller patients, radiation from traditional imaging equipment may be harmful to children.

"The staff in our radiology department has worked to raise awareness of the ill effects of radiation on children," said John Strain, MD, FACR, Chair of the Department of Radiology at Children's and Division Chief of Pediatric Radiology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. "Children have rapidly dividing cells that are more vulnerable to the effects of low-level radiation. Since they have longer life spans than adults, children also have more time for the effects of radiation to accumulate and cause health problems over time."

Before performing any imaging test on a child, the radiologist determines whether or not a particular test is appropriate. If the test is deemed necessary, the staff follows a set of protocols that help find proper radiation dosages based on each child's weight.

"We continually look for ways to decrease radiation exposure. Sometimes ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be substituted for computed tomography (CT) tests to avoid radiation exposure altogether," Dr. Strain said. "Our advanced pediatric equipment allows the radiologists to calibrate imaging tests to the lowest possible radiation dose while maintaining diagnostic accuracy. Our child-centered radiology services ensure that patients receive the tests they need without harmful side effects or excess radiation exposure."

Medication safety

The pharmacy department at Children's is another area where dosage safety is a top priority.

"As specialists, we know that children aren't mini-adults who can simply take smaller doses of adult medications," said Amy Poppy, PharmD, Director of Pharmacy at Children's. "A child's body is less developed, and an adult medication could not only interact very differently on a child, but it also could cause serious side effects."

Since many medications are typically manufactured in adult dosages, pharmacists at Children's work closely with each patient's physician to customize medications for children by determining the right dose, frequency and type of medication based on a child's weight, metabolism and rate of development.

"More than 80 percent of the medications we receive were developed for adults," Poppy said. "As a result, our pharmacy staff must customize these medications to make them appropriate for children. We also add flavors such as cherry or chocolate to liquid medications to make them easier for young patients to take."

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