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.