In the context of health care, risk assessment is the identification, evaluation and estimation of risk related to a particular clinical situation or intervention compared to accepted medical practice standards. The goal of risk assessment is to determine an acceptable level of risk for a given clinical treatment or intervention in association with the provided clinical circumstances for a patient or group of patients. In spite of the inherent challenges related to risk assessment in pediatric cross-sectional imaging, the potential risks of ionizing radiation and sedation/anesthesia in the pediatric population are thought to be quite small. Nevertheless both issues continue to be topics of discussion concerning risk and generate significant anxiety and concern for patients, parents and practicing pediatricians. Recent advances in CT technology allow for more rapid imaging with substantially lower radiation exposures, obviating the need for anesthesia for many indications and potentially mitigating concerns related to radiation exposure. In this review, we compare and contrast the potential risks of CT without anesthesia against the potential risks of MRI with anesthesia, and discuss the implications of this analysis on exam selection, providing specific examples related to neuroblastoma surveillance imaging.

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