Radiation Considerations

What Parents Need to Know

When children know what to expect, they feel more in control. Some imaging centers now help educate young children about MRIs and CT scans by role-playing the procedures using dolls and small toy scanners. Studies have shown that these, and similar educational techniques designed for children, can reduce anxiety and often eliminate the need for sedation.

As a parent or caregiver, there are also important steps you can take to help a child prepare for the procedure. You can also consult your physician with any questions you may have about your child's imaging procedure.

Before the Appointment:

1. When explaining the procedure, understand the steps clearly yourself before explaining them to your child.

2. Present the information in a straightforward, simple manner using language your child can understand.

3. The imaging center may be able to recommend online or video resources designed for children that you can use that will show the procedure. If you choose to use these resources, be sure you preview them before showing them to your child to ensure they are appropriate.

4. Often the machines used in procedures are loud. Ask the imaging center if your child can listen to music or wear earplugs during the procedure.

5. If you believe sedation is necessary, discuss this with your physician or the imaging facility before the appointment.

At the Appointment:

1. Sometimes, a parent can remain by the child during the procedure and even hold his or her hand. Confirm with your imaging center whether you will be allowed to do this and let your child know what to expect.

2. Young children in particular can often be calmed by hearing a warm personal story or remembrance that is familiar to them.

3. When stressed, children and adults often hold their breath. Help ease your child by encouraging him or her to breathe naturally. (Note: Some procedures require children to hold their breath. If so, help your child return to a normal pattern of breathing after the procedure.) You may want to practice with your child holding your breath prior to the test ... this will make this more familiar to them.

4. Consider offering your child a gift or special treat after the procedure is over.

5. The best way for your child to remain calm is for you to remain calm yourself.