DO YOU KNOW...

Preparing your child for diagnostic imaging tests

 

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan

An MRI is a way of taking pictures of the inside of the body without using X-rays or radiation. The MRI machine uses a large magnet, radio waves, and computers to take pictures of your child’s body.

How to prepare for an MRI

  • You will be asked to fill out a screening form that asks about any metal in your child’s body or clothing. Please dress your child in clothing with no metal snaps, zippers, or rivets. If you go with your child to the MRI area, you will be asked to fill out a similar screening form, and you will also need to dress in clothing that does not include metal.
  • Your child may be scheduled for an MRI with sedation. If this is the case, you can prepare by helping your child understand what he will experience before receiving sedation.
    • You and your child will meet with a sedation nurse, certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), anesthesiologist, and possibly a child life specialist before the MRI.
    • The sedation nurse will check your child’s blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate.
    • The sedation and anesthesia staff members will ask many questions about your child to ensure that they have the information they need to safely proceed with your child’s MRI.
    • See “Do You Know… Sedated Diagnostic Imaging Test” for more details about what to expect before, during, and after the test.
  • If your child is scheduled for an MRI without sedation or is scheduled with sedation but would like to attempt the MRI without sedation, there are a few ways to be prepared.
    • Your child can practice laying still and quiet for about 30 minutes to see whether or not he would be able to do this during the MRI.
    • Talk with your child about the loud noises they will hear during the MRI, and that they will be in a machine that looks like a tunnel.
    • A child life specialist can meet with you and your child to provide education and help prepare your child to have an MRI without sedation for the first time.
    • After filling out the MRI screening form and if the staff approves, you may stay in the MRI room with your child.

Nuclear medicine scan

A nuclear medicine scan involves taking pictures of parts of your child’s body. A staff member will inject medicine inside your child’s IV or central line. The medicine includes a small amount of a radioactive substance. For a short time, this substance will give off gamma rays. These rays can be seen and recorded by a nuclear medicine camera.

The radioactive substance will leave your child’s body within hours to a couple days. The time it takes the substance to leave the body depends on the type of radioactive substance used and the type of nuclear medicine test performed. The scan is not harmful to your child.

Please see “Do You Know… Nuclear Medicine Scan” for precautions to take after your child’s nuclear medicine scan.

How to prepare my child for a PET scan

  • During the PET scan your child will need to lie still on a scan table in a machine that looks like a tunnel.
  • The length of the scan differs depending on how tall your child is. Generally, the scan will take 25–45 minutes to complete.
  • This machine makes a small amount of noise, but nothing will touch your child during the scan.
  • A parent may remain in the room during the scan if the child is not receiving sedation.

How to prepare my child for a bone scan, MIBG scan, or liver/spleen scan

  • During these scans your child will need to lie still on a scan table in a machine that looks like a short tunnel.
  • At times, certain parts of the machine may come close to your child but will not touch him.
  • This machine makes a small amount of noise.
  • A parent may remain in the room during the scan if the child is not receiving sedation.

During all scans it is important for your child to remain still if he is not sedated.

Nuclear medicine scanning machines are quiet, and many children fall asleep during their scans. They are able to listen to music during all scans and may have the option of watching a movie during bone scans, liver/spleen scans, and MIBG scans.

Computed tomography (CT) scan

A CT scan uses X-rays to create pictures of cross-sections of the body.

How to prepare my child for a CT scan

  • During a CT scan your child will need to lie still for 5–20 minutes, depending on what part of the body is being scanned.
  • The CT scanner sounds like a washing machine spinning when pictures are being taken.
  • The majority of patients are not sedated for CT scans.
  • You will be able to stay in the room with your child during the CT scan if medically permitted by the staff.

X-ray

An X-ray produces images of the structures inside your child’s body.

How to prepare my child for an X-ray

  • During an X-ray your child will need to lay still or stand still, depending on what part of the body is being scanned.
  • You will be able to stay in the room with your child during the X-ray if medically permitted by the staff.

Ultrasound

An ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves to produce images of structures inside your child’s body.

How to prepare my child for an ultrasound

  • During an ultrasound your child will need to lie still on a bed while the ultrasound technician puts a warm gel on a tool called a transducer and gently moves it over the skin of the area being examined.
  • The ultrasound should cause no pain; however, your child may experience discomfort if the area being examined is tender or painful. You will be able to stay with your child during this test.

How child life can help your child prepare for diagnostic imaging tests

Child life specialists are here to provide education about what your child will experience during a diagnostic imaging test. They can help your child practice lying still and help your child feel more comfortable and prepared before the test.

Questions?

If you have questions about how to prepare your child for any diagnostic imaging test, please talk to a child life specialist or a member of your medical team.

This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

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