Initial Imaging for Pediatric Renal Tumors: An Opportunity for Improvement

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Current Children's Oncology Group studies on renal malignancy focus on minimizing treatment side effects with a goal of decreasing long-term complications. In this series we evaluate the patterns of initial imaging in children with renal tumors.

Materials and Methods:

We retrospectively reviewed records of 122 patients treated for renal tumors at our institution between 2005 and 2016. Ideal imaging was defined as cross-sectional imaging of the chest, abdomen and pelvis in a single setting without any additional ionizing radiation exposing scans.


Median patient age was 33.5 months (range 1 to 195). A total of 101 patients (83%) were initially evaluated elsewhere and subsequently referred to oncology (67.2%) for further evaluation. Before treatment 58 patients (47.5%) underwent imaging that was obtained in an ideal manner. Compared to those undergoing ideal imaging, median additional radiation exposure was 2.31 mSv (range 0.9 to 11.5), 3.08 mSv (0.6 to 11.7) and 5.1 mSv (1.2 to 16) in patients younger than 5 years, 5 to 9 years old and 10 years or older, respectively. Factors associated with undergoing ideal imaging included undergoing abdominal ultrasound as an initial scan (OR 3.637, p = 0.001), while presentation to an emergency department resulted in a reduced likelihood of undergoing ideal imaging (OR 0.351, p = 0.012). Factors associated with a decreased likelihood of undergoing initial screening ultrasound included presenting with vague symptoms (OR 0.072, p = 0.045) and presenting to a tertiary care emergency department (OR 0.228, p = 0.027).


Current patterns of initial imaging for pediatric renal tumors are often associated with unnecessary and avoidable imaging studies, resulting in increased radiation exposure. Presenting to the emergency room as the initial point of contact with vague symptoms is associated with a decreased likelihood of undergoing appropriate or ideal pretherapy imaging, while initial evaluation with ultrasound is associated with a greater likelihood of undergoing ideal imaging, reducing overall radiation exposure. We advocate initial abdominal ultrasound in all pediatric patients suspected of having an abdominal mass. Our data highlight an opportunity for quality improvement across specialties caring for children with renal tumors.

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