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Bored Kid Turns To X-Ray Research

May 19, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Chest Radiology, Pediatric Radiology
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Nonstop video gaming just wasn’t working anymore for California teenager Wynton Kun. He thought maybe he ought to get off the couch and do something with his life.

So, during the summer after his sophomore year in high school, he carried out a research project on the necessity and cost effectiveness of repeated chest X-rays in children who are dependent on home mechanical ventilation (HMV). On Monday, he presented his findings at the American Thoracic Society Annual Conference in New Orleans.

Kun turned 18 in April and will graduate from La Salle High School in Pasadena, California, later this month. It’s really true, he said, as quoted in the May 2010 edition of the ATS News electronic newsletter, that: “I used to be one of those kids who played video games all day.”

When he decided that there had to be more to life, he consulted his mother, Sheila Kun, a pulmonary registered nurse at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. She, in turn, introduced her son to her mentor, Thomas G. Keens, MD, a pediatric pulmonologist at the hospital and professor of pediatrics, physiology, and biophysics at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. Said young Kun:

Dr. Keens showed me a whole new world. He told me to go out every day and do something useful.

Kun figured it might be useful to examine the effects of repeated X-rays on HMV children admitted to the hospital for pneumonia. He used the hospital database to analyze records of 28 HMV patients ranging in age from 8 months to 16 years. He checked the number of chest X-rays they received and whether the results of those X-rays affected the patients’ treatment plans.

“These kids are often admitted to the hospital with pneumonia during viral winter seasons,” Kun said. “During their hospital course, chest X-rays are frequently used to assess their lung condition, but we do not know how often they should be used or whether they are helpful in prompting changes in treatment.”

Kun found that the 28 patients received an average of five chest X-rays per hospitalization, but that two-thirds of those X-rays did not result in any change in therapy within 24 hours. Nor were the majority of discharges contingent on X-ray findings.

“It’s interesting to note that some European physicians only use X-rays if they think something is going wrong, but here in the United States, X-rays are used to follow a patient’s progress,” Kun said. “Based on this observation, we can speculate that lowering the frequency of chest X-rays could be beneficial to patients, as they are not the sole predictors of how a respiratory patient’s treatment course should be changed.”

Kun will attend the University of California at Davis in the fall. He’s undecided about his career, but thinks he might pursue his interest in how economics and the practice of medicine intersect. “With health-care reform,” he said, “it will be increasingly important to review costs and benefits.”

Smart kid.

Related seminar: Pediatric Radiology Update

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  1. Lec 16 | MIT 3.091 Introduction to Solid State Chemistry | Lateral File Drawer on May 20th, 2010 at 1:21 am

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