You care about your children’s health, and it can be extremely anxiety-provoking to see them in pain or discomfort. When they need medical attention, knowing what to expect can help you manage an already-stressful situation.
At NYU Langone Pediatric Radiology, we typically see patients from the newborn period through adolescence. We understand that kids are not just small adults; they have their own needs, and our approach is tailored to children specifically. It matters to us that your child has a positive experience, so we’ve made every effort to ensure they do.
Here’s what you can expect the next time you bring your child in for an imaging appointment:
Fluoroscopy: This type of imaging uses low dose X-rays to look at the inside of the body in real time, usually using a contrast liquid that will appear on our monitors. Some of our most common types of fluoroscopic procedures in pediatrics include contrast enemas, small bowel series, upper GI series, voiding cystourethogram (VCUG), and video swallow studies. Here are some helpful tips:
• Patients for these exams should be as comfortable as possible. Any soothing comfort items your child would like—toys, pacifiers, etc.—are welcome.
• Babies and toddlers in particular should not eat before their studies.
• Fluoroscopy uses low dose radiation. We subscribe to the Image Gently campaign’s Pause and Pulse philosophy of using the lowest radiation dose possible as described.
CT and MRI: When your child needs imaging done with CT or MRI, there are a few things to keep in mind.
• CT, which stands for Computed Tomography, uses radiation to generate very detailed 3D images of any part of your child’s body. A CT scan does involve a low dose of radiation, but we use the most state-of-the-art equipment to minimize exposure.
• MRI, which stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, produces detailed 3D images of the body without using ionizing radiation. MRI takes longer than a CT scan. The decision to image with CT or MRI depends on several factors, including the anatomical location of the problem.
• In order for us to obtain the highest-quality images, it’s important for kids to stay as still as possible during imaging. When necessary, the department of anesthesia is available to provide sedation to make the experience easier.
X-ray: It’s common for pediatricians to refer kids to us for X-ray imaging, often for the evaluation of possible broken bones or pneumonia. Here are some helpful tips:
• Unless otherwise instructed, you can feed your child before the exam so that he or she is kept as comfortable as possible. Other soothers, such as pacifiers and blankets, are also allowed for the exam.
• X-rays do involve radiation, but a very small amount. These procedures are non-invasive and nothing needs to be put into the body. The radiation is isolated to the specific part of the body that needs imaging and nowhere else, making X-rays extremely safe.
Ultrasound: Ultrasound is a very common pediatric imaging procedure. It can be used to evaluate almost every part of the body. One of the most common reasons we see pediatric patients is to evaluate abdominal pain. This procedure is particularly easy for our patients. Here are some helpful tips:
• The entire process is non-invasive, so there’s no stressing out about radiation or discomfort.
• We like to consider the simple things to make our patients more comfortable during medical procedures, so we use warm jelly that will feel more pleasant for the kids.
Imaging is central to any good patient care. Our pediatric radiologists are part of the healthcare team, working closely with your referring physician to gather relevant information as quickly and accurately as possible. We know imaging studies play a huge role in helping doctors diagnose exactly what is happening to a patient and determine which treatment steps to consider.
Nancy Fefferman, MD is an associate professor in the Department of Radiology at NYU Langone Medical Center, and the chief of Pediatric Radiology.