, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 493-497
Date: 08 Jan 2008

Cumulative diagnostic radiation exposure in children with ventriculoperitoneal shunts: a review

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Children may be more vulnerable to diagnostic radiation exposure because of the increased dose–volume ratio and the increased lifetime risk per unit dose of radiation from early exposure. Moreover, recent radiological literature suggests that exposure to ionizing radiation from imaging studies may play a role in the later development of malignancies.

Materials and Methods

We review the literature and present two illustrative clinical examples of children (each child developed head and neck malignancies during their late teen years) with hydrocephalus requiring multiple cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) shunt revisions and diagnostic computerized tomography (CT) scans throughout their life.


The literature reviewed suggests that children are more prone to diagnostic radiation exposure. Although it is not possible to prove that the multiple diagnostic studies result in malignancies, our review of the literature and illustrative cases describing malignancy risk and radiation exposure should give clinicians pause when considering requesting multiple diagnostic CT studies in children during the evaluation of possible CSF shunt dysfunction. Alternative tests such as “shunt MRI” protocols should be considered for patients and used whenever possible to minimize exposure to ionizing radiation.

Commentaries on this paper are available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00381-007-0561-9, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00381-007-0562-8, and http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00381-007-0563-7.