American Academy of Nursing

View all recommendations from this society

March 21, 2017

Don’t routinely order a head CT to assess for shunt failure in children with hydrocephalus.

Computerized tomography (CT) scans have been used for diagnostic imaging for more than 40 years, but it should not be assumed that a head CT is always needed in an evaluation for shunt failure. Because CT is the usual mode of imaging for children with hydrocephalus, these patients have a much higher cumulative radiation exposure than the average population. Children have an increased risk of cancer with exposure to higher cumulative radiation doses. CT scans should be performed only when warranted to reduce exposure to radiation and decrease the risk for radiation induced cancer. Consider using head ultrasounds when there is an open fontanel, or a rapid sequence magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to reduce the amount of ionizing radiation exposure to pediatric patients with a ventricular shunt. A rapid sequence MRI is less expensive than a formal MRI and comparable in costs to CT scan. Because the rapid sequence MRI is quick, sedation is not needed, further reducing costs and medical risks of sedation. A CT scan can be used for emergencies and if the child has implanted metal or a device that is not compatible with an MRI.

These items are provided solely for informational purposes and are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a health professional. Patients with any specific questions about the items on this list or their individual situation should consult their physician or nurse.

How The List Was Created

The American Academy of Nursing has convened a Task Force of member fellows who are leaders of professional nursing organizations representing a broad range of clinical expertise, practice settings and patient populations. The Task Force collaboratively identifies nursing/interdisciplinary interventions commonly used in clinical practice that do not contribute to improved patient outcomes or provide high value. An extensive literature search and review of practice guidelines is conducted for each new proposed recommendation for the list. The supporting evidence is then reviewed by the respective nursing organization(s) with the most relevant expertise to each recommendation. The Academy Task Force narrows the recommendations through consensus, based on established criteria. The final recommendations are presented to the American Academy of Nursing’s Board of Directors for approval to be added to the Choosing Wisely list created by the Academy. Once approved by the Academy’s Board of Directors, the recommended statements are sent to the ABIM Foundation for an external review by physician(s) and nurse(s) and final approval for consistency with the ABIM Foundation principles.

Recommendations were developed in partnership with the following organizations: Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN), recommendations 1, 11, 12, & 13; Academy’s Expert Panel on Aging, recommendations 2, 3, 14, 15, & 24; American Association of Critical- Care Nurses (AACN), recommendations 4 & 5; Oncology Nursing Society (ONS), recommendations 6, 7, 8, 9, & 10; American Association of Neuroscience Nurses (AANN), recommendations 16, 17, 18, 19, & 20; Academy’s Expert Panel on Acute & Critical Care, recommendation 21; Society of Pediatric Nurses (SPN), recommendation 22; American Pediatric Surgical Nurses Association, Inc. (APSNA), and the American Pediatric Surgical Association (APSA), recommendation 23; and the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN), American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), and the American Association of Neuroscience Nurses (AANN), recommendation 25.

The American Academy of Nursing’s conflict of interests and disclosures policy can be found at


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