Parents of a two-year-old boy are suing a California hospital after their son allegedly was subjected to more than 65 minutes of intermittent scanning in a CT machine, leaving him with radiation burns on his face and head.
Jacoby Roth was taken to the 78-bed Mad River Community Hospital in Arcata, a small town 290 miles north of San Francisco, on Jan. 23. His parents, Carrie and Padre, took him to the hospital for an examination after the toddler fell out of bed the night before, said attorney Don L. Stockett.
The CT, performed to diagnose possible head injuries, was halted after the boy's parents became upset at the session's length and demanded that radiological technologist Raven Knickerbocker stop the machine.
Within hours, the boy's face started turning red. At the mother's insistence, the hospital photographed Jacoby's face to document the incident.
"There were red marks all the way around his head, like a severe sunburn," Stockett said in an interview with Diagnostic Imaging.
The attorney has filed a lawsuit against the hospital, claiming negligence and medical battery. Hospital records show that 151 scans were done on the boy during the session, Stockett said.
A cytogeneticist who analyzed the boy's blood found substantial chromosomal damage, Stockett said. The child's parents are looking for an epidemiologist to conduct further examinations.
Hospital officials declined to comment on the case, citing pending litigation.
Knickerbocker, who was certified as a licensed radiological technologist in December 2000, left the hospital two weeks after the incident. Her state license was suspended Sept. 30 by the California Department of Public Health, which is investigating the incident. Knickerbocker had no prior complaints, and none of the previous complaints that had been lodged against the hospital were substantiated, according to agency records.
Radiologists familiar with the effects of ionizing radiation on children expressed concern in interviews about the incident's implications for the child's health.
Dr. David Brenner, director of Columbia University's Center for Radiological Research in New York City, said the boy faces a possible increased cancer risk, depending on the actual length of radiation exposure.
Although high doses of radiation can be fatal, intermediate doses can damage the gastrointestinal or hematological systems, with symptoms that would show up within a few weeks, according to Brenner.
The boy should not have been scanned for more than two seconds, he said, noting that the x-ray tubes in CT scanners would overheat if used for extended periods and have built-in safety measures that would automatically turn the machine off.
The boy seems fine as of Nov. 7.
"He bounces around like a normal two-year-old," Stockett said. "You wouldn't know anything was wrong with him at all."
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