What Happens When My Child Gets Medical Imaging?


When children get sick or injured, it’s up to the parents and physicians to work together to find the best treatment options for the child. If your child requires hospitalization or surgery, then your child’s pediatrician will likely order one of these common medical imaging exams for children. Learn more about the common types of medical imaging, as well as the benefits and risks of each procedure.

All About Common Medical Imaging Exams for Children

Ultrasounds

Ultrasounds are one of the most common and frequently used medical imaging procedures.  Ultrasounds use sound waves and computer technology to see into the internal structures of the body. Because of the lack of radiation used, they are completely safe to perform on children. Women will often have several ultrasounds performed throughout their pregnancy and all are harmless. Ultrasounds can help determine conditions like cardiovascular birth defects, dysfunction in the reproductive organs, injuries after traumatic incidents like falls or car accidents, and possible cancerous masses. This procedure is also completely painless for children so there is no need for sedation or anesthesia.

CT Scan / CAT Scan

A CT Scan or CAT scan is another medical imaging procedure that your doctor may ask to perform. CT scans use a combination of X-ray and computer technology to examine the body and form images for further study. CT scans are commonly performed when doctors need cross-sectional images of the internal organs such as the chest cavity, abdominal areas, or the brain. If your doctor needs to perform a pediatric CT, the child may be asked to not eat for several hours prior to the examination so that the images will not be distorted. Children will also have to remain very still and silent during the scan. This can be difficult for some children, so the doctor may be forced to sedate the child if need be. A common practice for CT scans is to administer contrast material so certain growths or blockages can be seen better. Contrast material can be given to a child through an IV, by swallowing the solution, or through an enema. If your child has allergies or a kidney condition, you should inform the doctor or technician prior to the scan.

CT scans use small amounts of radiation in order to better highlight the different types of structures in the body. Although the dose is relatively small, repeated CT scans can incur a slightly higher risk of cancer. But the advantages in diagnosis that CT scans can provide far outweigh the potential risk. The best way to limit the exposure is to only have CT scans performed when they are essential and to have the mechanisms narrowed onto one part of the child’s body. There are always risks when using sedation and anesthesia with children, so discuss options with your doctor and child.

X-Rays

X-rays are another extremely common medical imaging procedure performed on both adults and children. If your child has a recent injury or needs surgery, doctors will often ask that an X-ray be performed to determine conditions like bone fractures, breaks and growth dysfunctions. X-rays are performed relatively quickly so the time your child spends exposed to the small doses of radiation is limited. Ask your doctor or imaging facility if they use analog X-rays or digital. Digital X-rays use much smaller doses of radioactive material to examine the body.

MRI

MRI or a magnetic resonance imaging exam is an imaging practice that doctors will usually perform if the child has a cardiovascular or brain condition, bleeding problems, childhood cancer or a type of growth disorder. MRIs use no forms of radiation so children are safe to have this procedure performed. MRIs use radio and magnetic waves to excite the atoms within the body and then use computer technology to collect these atoms and form the image of the body. Possible points of discomfort for a child would be remaining still for very long and having contrast material administered.

PET-CT Scans

PET-CT scans are a form of nuclear medicine that doctors use to obtain images for better diagnosis. PET-CT scans use radioactive material in order to create the images that the doctors will use to plan treatment options. This imaging procedure is most often performed if a doctor is concerned about conditions like childhood cancer or cardiovascular and neurological disorders. Doctors will likely only use CT scans or another kind of imaging procedure for children unless the potential information to be gained is essential.

Having any medical imaging procedure performed can be a scary experience for both parents and children. But it is important to remember that these tests are created to improve the health of children. If you have serious reservations or fears, speak with a doctor or technologist about all of your questions. Your child cannot ask these questions, so it your job to stay informed and calm so they can stay healthy and happy.

Doctors Imaging is prepared for your child’s visit to our calm office environment. Scheduling is simple, and you can either do it online, or by simply calling 504-883-8111.

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Know the Symptoms of Appendicitis in Kids


Appendicitis is one of the primary causes of childhood surgery and if parents cannot recognize the symptoms quickly, it can lead to a great deal of pain for children and fear for parents.

What is the Appendix? The appendix is a small pouch, about 4-5 inches long, that rests on the front, right side of the body and connects to the large intestine. The appendix is an organ that most physicians believe serves no function because of the lack of symptoms after removal. Researchers theorize that the appendix might be an organ that can reboot the immune system with healthy bacteria after a bout of infection in the digestive system.

How Does the Appendix Become Infected?

When bacteria is trapped in the appendix, the organ becomes inflamed due to antibodies flooding the organ in the hopes of fighting off dangerous infections. Trapped bacteria can be the result of a hard collection of stool or by pressure on the lymph node in the groin. When the bacteria in the appendix are blocked from leaving, the appendix becomes irritated. This is usually when the abdominal pain begins in children.

What are the Symptoms of Appendicitis?

Early Symptoms: An early symptom of appendicitis is pain, often in the center of the abdomen but sometimes on the right side. The pain may be dull at first but may become more sharp or severe. Accompanying symptoms may include slight fever (above normal but less than 100 degrees), vomiting or nausea. Some individuals, particularly children, experience loss of appetite.

Later Symptoms: As the condition progresses, severe pain is usually felt in the lower right part of the abdomen. As the appendix becomes further inflamed, symptoms may include:

  • severe or worsening pain or cramping in the abdomen, rectum or back
  • swelling or tenderness in the abdomen
  • severe nausea or vomiting
  • high fever (over 100 degrees)
  • diarrhea or constipation
  • inability to expel gas

Appendicitis can be difficult to diagnose because a number of other conditions can cause similar symptoms. Not everyone with appendicitis exhibits all of these symptoms. If you or your child have any of these symptoms, particularly abdominal pain that continues to worsen, contact your doctor immediately.

If the appendix pain is left untreated, the organ will fill with pus and bacteria causing it to rupture. A ruptured appendix will cause extreme abdominal pain along with other symptoms such as fever, vomiting, loss of energy and appetite and will need urgent medical attention. If your child is complaining of persistent stomach ache or pain and it hurts to touch their right side of their body, you can be almost sure that their appendix is infected and needs to be removed.

Appendicitis in children is often the child’s first experience with any kind of surgery. Broken bones, falls and accidents are more typical reasons why children seek urgency medical attention, so if you can recognize that your child is displaying the symptoms of appendicitis, they will be understandably frightened. Try to keep them as calm as possible until a physician can see them.

How is Appendicitis Diagnosed?

A physician or other healthcare provider will perform one or all of the following tests to determine the extent of the appendix infection.

  • Often, they’ll begin with a physical examination by pressing gently on the area and checking the child’s vitals.
  • After that, an ultrasound will be performed on the child. Ultrasounds use the power of sound waves in order to image the interior of the body. Ultrasounds are totally painless and can help doctors determine the extent of the infection and whether it can be treated and minimized with antibiotics or if surgery is necessary.
  • They may also recommend having a CT scan performed to determine the presence of appendicitis in children. CT scans (also known as CAT scans) use the power of X-rays and computer software to create cross-sectional images of the organs and soft tissues of the body. CT scans can be extremely beneficial in pediatric appendicitis cases in order to rule out other causes of abdominal pain like injury or bleeding.
  • An MRI may be used to help diagnose or evaluate symptoms associated with appendicitis because it is non-invasive, fast, and does not use ionizing radiation.
  • In some cases, an abdominal or chest x-ray may be the initial imaging study. Constipation and sometimes even pneumonia may be causing abdominal pain similar to that seen with appendicitis.

How is Appendicitis Treated?

There are three treatment options for appendicitis in children:

  1. Removal of the appendix with surgery. Small incisions and laparoscopy are usual methods to remove of the appendix. The child will stay in the hospital for 1-2 days and be discharged with antibiotics.
  2. If the appendix is ruptured, surgery is needed immediately. Once the appendix is removed, the child will have to stay in under hospital observation for several days — possibly longer than a week to monitor infection or fever.
  3. Interval appendectomy is treating an appendix infection with antibiotics. As the infection subsides, surgery becomes more an option rather than a necessity.

Learn more about appendicitis: