Imaging the Child – The Role of the Pediatric Radiologist

The practice of pediatric radiology in Utah is a growing field. These specialized doctors look at x-rays and images taken of children to determine if there is anything abnormal. For example, if a child is suffering from a terrible headache and his or her primary care doctor does not know what is causing these headaches, the doctor will send the child to an imaging center to have pictures taken of the child’s head. A pediatric radiologist will then scrutinize the images taken to see if they will reveal a cause of the child’s complaint.

Due to advances in technology, these doctors have the ability to practice their trade anywhere, from their home to a hospital. Many of these doctors choose to work from children’s hospitals where their patients can receive the specialized care that young children often require.

While at the children’s hospitals, these doctors do not practice in a typical setting filled with patients in beds. Instead, these practitioners work in a room filled with computer monitors. Images from around the hospital come into their computers allowing them to sit in one place and analyze image after image. These doctors then write a note of their findings so that the doctor in charge of the child’s care will know what the pediatric radiologist saw on the images.

Pediatric radiology is a subspecialty of both pediatrics and radiology. A doctor just out of medical school, wishing to pursue a career in this subspecialty could do his or her initial training, or residency, in pediatrics for three years and then pursue a fellowship, or specialized training, in radiology after the residency. Alternatively, doctors can take a residency in radiology initially and then specialize further in pediatrics later on.

Since the patient population of these practitioners is young, special considerations are often required in order to get proper images. Many of the new imaging techniques used can be scary for children, including MRI machines and CT scans. This equipment also requires the child to remain still for long periods of time so that the images obtained will be clear. Hospitals have come up with a variety of techniques to calm frightened children who are about to undergo such procedures. Many hospitals have brightly colored murals on the walls to stimulate the children. Additionally, rooms can contain toys and video games to keep the child entertained before the imaging scan.

During the actual image accrual process, a child must remain completely still. To achieve this state, sometimes the parents are utilized to calm the child. If that is not effective or if the child is in a great deal of pain and unable to remain still, sedation is occasionally used.