Safe Pediatric Imaging for Injuries
During National Youth Sports Week, we celebrate the healthy influence that youth sports organizations have on children and their families. We also recognize that sports and other physical activities can result in injuries that need to be addressed with the child’s age and size in mind. All parents should be aware of the medical imaging options for children so they can discuss the benefits and drawbacks with their child’s doctor should a situation arise.
Digital X-Ray Exams for Children
Many people probably assume that a traditional X-ray is the best way to determine the extent of most sports injuries. In the case of some bone and soft tissue injuries, this may be true, but X-rays use electromagnetic radiation, which can present health risks to young patients. The amount of radiation is very small, so issues are uncommon. Still, it is important to note that children are more sensitive to radiation than adults. Precautions should always be taken to provide a child-size dose of radiation and limit the number of scans a child receives.
Pediatric CT Scans
Computed Tomography (CT) scans can be a valuable diagnostic tool for young patients who may have experienced internal injuries from trauma. CT scans do use a higher level of radiation than X-rays to provide a more detailed image, but often the benefits outweigh the risks. CT scans do require children to lie still for approximately 15–30 minutes, so a sedative may be recommended for young children or those who have trouble staying still.
MRI Scans for Children
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a radiation-free way to examine bones, joints, muscles and other areas for common sports injuries like stress fractures and muscle tears. This gentle, youth-friendly procedure creates detailed images of the body using magnetic fields and radio waves. For that reason, it is often preferred over X-rays and CT scans for kids. Parents should be aware that children will be required to lie still inside a machine for up to 90 minutes and sedation may be necessary for some kids.
Pediatric Ultrasound Imaging
Ultrasound (sonography) is both a safe and easy imaging option for children. It is not ideal for every sports injury, but when ultrasound can be used, it requires no radiation and no sedation. Ultrasounds use high-frequency sound waves to examine the body’s internal organs such as the liver, spleen, kidneys and pancreas.
Ultimately, the best imaging procedure for your child should be a collaborative decision between your child’s referring physician and the radiologist at the imaging facility. To learn more about imaging safety for kids or our Image Gently promise, contact c/node/111 at 336.433.5000.