Preparing your child for a medical scan – Kids aren’t just small adults!

It is important that a pediatric imaging team encourage parental/carers involvement, always! So ask, insist, please! Why? Carers are the most important people in a child’s world, they need to be invited to be present.

Carers should be given a specific task or role during the medical scanning procedure, when appropriate, to be most effective. They can hold the child, comfort, or distract their child.

For a child facing their first CT or MRI scan, or for that matter any imaging exam, can feel like they are stepping into a strange world, with strange people, in a foreign environment dominated by the big, ugly machine that is the medical scanning device.

The imaging team will endeavour to reassure every paediatric patient and put them, and their carers, at ease as much as possible. However, as a parent it is not at all easy to see your child in distress.

As a parent you are in the best position to prepare your child for the medical scan, and to support them during the experience. To help you in this scenario, US pediatric Radiologist-in-Chief at Golisano Childrens Hospital and Diagnose.me specialist Johan Gerard Blickman gives their advice on how you can help your child through get through the medical scan and what you can expect at each stage of the procedure.

Before the scan

  • Being in a medical setting can be upsetting to a child. If your child is anxious about the scan you should discuss exactly what might happen in an open and honest manner prior to the appointment. Many imaging departments have folders describing pediatric imaging tests in colourful, cartoon-like terms. Ask for them.
  • You may want to practice lying still with your child for periods of 5 to 10 minutes at a time. This practice may help prevent your child from needing sedation medication. This technique is called ‘role modelling’ and if a child sees you practicing this, it will be easier.
  • Bring along a “comfort” item for your child for them to hold during the scan, such as a favourite soft toy or small blanket to keep them calm. Many medical imaging facilities will have some familiar toy items available, some you can even keep! iPads and tablets are becoming more and more popular for children to watch or play their favourite apps to calm their fears.
  • If sedation is required every aspect of the procedure will be explained to you to ensure the experience of the medical scan is as easy as possible.
  • Depending on what area of your child’s body is being scanned, there may be important instructions to follow before and on the day of your child’s scan. Make sure you read through all the documents from your doctor and ask for advice if you are at all unsure.

During the scan

  • The most important role of a parent or guardian during the test is to be there for the child and to help them stay calm and relaxed. It is important that your child remains still during the scan, reassuring them that they’re not in any danger will help them. Positive words ‘you are doing awesome’ and ‘you are lying soooo still’ do work!
  • Follow the instructions given by the doctor, nurse, or technologist. They will show you where to sit or stand during the scan.
  • Even though you may be physically separated from the technologist/doctor, they can and will constantly communicate with you through an intercom.

After the scan

  • If your child has not been sedated they will normally be able to go home straight after the scan. However, if your child has been administered with sedation medication, they will be taken to the recovery area after the exam. Most families are able to go home shortly after the exam.
  • The radiologist will evaluate the results and send a report to your child’s doctor, who will then arrange an appointment to discuss the results with you. The pediatric radiologist may or may not give you a preliminary result, but the final report usually takes 24-48 hrs.
  • If you are still concerned after your child’s diagnosis, you can seek a doctor second opinion. Diagnose.me is a specialist online health platform that connects patients seeking a second opinion with some of the world’s leading specialists including paediatric radiologists. This online service can find, confirm or correct a patient’s diagnosis and give you advice on the best treatment options. You will need a copy of your child’s medical scans (X-Ray, CT or MRI) to upload onto the site – you can easily request a copy of the scan from your hospital or doctor.

Seizures and epilepsy in Childhood

It is a terrifying experience for family members who witness their loved ones, especially children, have an episode of seizures or further on, be diagnosed with epilepsy.

In many cases seizures that take place at home have not subsequently been picked up in hospitals by even the most sophisticated scanning. This can cause doctors or parents to believe they are imagining that their child has epilepsy. This is a frustrating situation for a parent to be in, and fortunately most doctors will now listen sympathetically to parents and treat them as a primary information source in helping to manage and correctly diagnose their children’s health.

What is a seizure?

Seizures occur when there is a short period of sudden surge of electrical activity from the brain, causing our body to act in a certain way. When someone has a tendency of recurrent seizures over a longer period of time, then it is called epilepsy.

seizures
MRI brain

This electrical activity may occur from one small area or the entire brain, this determines if the seizure will occur in one part of the body or be generalized. Although having a single episode of seizure does not mean there will have more seizures, it does however increase an individual’s chances of having more. Seizures are not rare in children, and they do not necessarily mean a dangerous pathology. However, a history of seizures in the family does makes it more likely for them to develop epilepsy.

Causes of Seizures in Children

There are many causes of seizures and epilepsy which vary from newborn to older age however, in many cases the cause of seizures may be unknown.

Common causes are:

  • Structural abnormalities in the developing brain,
  • Decreased levels of electrolytes in the blood,
  • Bleeding in the brain and
  • Low blood or oxygen supply to the brain in newborn and infants less than 1 year age There are also a number of causes which affect all age groups including: infections such as meningitis or encephalitis and stroke. Also, within the 60’s age group, brain atrophy and degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease can cause seizures.
  • Space occupying lesions can affect any age group, however in children specific lesions are more prone to causing seizures than other ages.

Diagnosis of Seizures

Diagnosis of seizures can be difficult, as the person having the seizure may not remember what has taken place. Within children they will rely on parents or loved ones to recount this for them and take action.

The doctor will perform a neurological examination including a test that measures the electrical activity of the brain called EEG. Imaging tests such as computerized tomography (CT)and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)may be required. In paediatrics MRI are preferred due to the absence of radiation exposure, however under 5 years of age MRI requires general anaesthesia. CT is the preferred option in acute settings.

Diagnosis from scanscan be open to interpretation and therefore could possible lead to a misdiagnosis. If you’ve visited a doctor and are having doubts, asecond medical opinioncan reduce the risk of a misdiagnosis by up to 90%. Diagnose.me can help.