Doctors ordering too many unnecessary X-rays for children, experts say


September 25, 2017 06:09:05

Doctors are ordering too many unnecessary X-rays to look for conditions such as asthma and stomach pain in children, experts say.

Key points:

  • Ask whether X-rays are needed for stomach pain and asthma in kids
  • When it comes to medical tests, ask: Are there simpler, safer options?
  • Older patients on multiple meds should ask before stopping their use

Dr Sarah Dalton, from the Royal Australian College of Physicians Paediatrics and Child Health division, said in more than 95 per cent of cases, an abdominal X-ray was not helpful in kids with stomach pain.

For kids with a chest condition known as bronchiolitis, X-rays were only useful in 1 in 100 children.

The recommendations are part of the Choosing Wisely initiative, where medical colleges draw up lists of questions for patients to ask their doctors, to prevent over-treatment and over-diagnosis.

“I encourage my colleagues to pause for a second and ask, ‘Is this X-ray really necessary?'” Dr Dalton said.

Dr Dalton said it was important for parents to take note, as abdominal X-rays have much more radiation than chest X-rays.

Choosing Wisely has released 25 new recommendations from a number of medical colleges.

Adults with lower back pain should also be discouraged from having X-rays, according to Dr Peter Connaughton from the Royal Australian College of Physicians.

Older patients need to ask doctors about coming off multiple medications

Patients who are taking more than five medications should sit down and talk to their doctor about whether it is safe to stop taking any of them, experts said.

Dr Robert Pickles, from the Internal Medicine Society of Australia and New Zealand, said medications that older people should consider avoiding include benzodiazepines, anti-psychotics, hypoglycaemic drugs, blood thinning drugs, high blood pressure medications and angina drugs.

“The average patient I see these days is over 65 and taking more than five medications a day, with many having started treatment and never stopped,” he said.

He said patients should ask their doctors if they need to be on so many medications for long periods.

Another example was reflux or indigestion drugs known as proton pump inhibitors, which most patients do not need to use long term.

The full list of recommendations can be seen at






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