Preparing Kids For Medical Imaging

February 9, 2018 – 5 min read

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Many kids have at least one type of medical imaging done during their childhood. From sudden aches and pains to an object up the nose, to injuries from sports or play, there are many reasons that a child may need medical imaging. For a parent, not only is the reason behind the imaging concerning, but there could be questions and concerns about the scan itself. Is it safe for a growing child? Will they be able to stay still during the exam? Will they be scared if you can’t stay with them? All of these are valid parental concerns, so read on to see how you can best prepare your child for their medical imaging.

Safety Concerns

Many of the safety concerns revolving around imaging and kids stem from the radiation they would receive from an x-ray or CT scan. Parents have to trust their physicians and know that they wouldn’t be recommended a scan if the risks outweighed the benefits. An x-ray or a CT scan do expose children to a small amount of radiation, but they also are a noninvasive and painless way of diagnosing disease and monitoring treatment. They can both be useful in planning for surgery, and placing catheters, stents, or removing blood clots or blockages. Oftentimes a younger child has trouble staying still for an extended period of time, so the speed with which an x-ray can be done is essential. A CT scan requires a longer period of time being still, often 10 to 15 minutes, but an MRI can be especially hard for little ones who would need to lie still for an hour or more. There is a concern of children being exposed to too much radiation since children’s bodies are still developing, but the FDA has stated that scans for kids are a valuable tool that should be used with discretion. If you have been recommended medical imaging for your child, know that the possible risks have been considered and are outweighed by the benefits.

Preparing Your Child

If you, the parent, are comfortable with the idea of your child receiving medical imaging, you now need to make sure your child is ready. The machines, noises, and environment of a medical imaging center can be overwhelming for a young child so preparing them ahead of time is crucial to keeping them comfortable. If your child is having an x-ray, you may not be able to be in the room with them so letting them know that holding their breath, staying still, and following directions will be necessary can get them ready. If your child moves during the imaging the pictures can be blurred and need to be redone. Helping your child understand the procedure and the importance of staying still will make it less likely to need repeat imaging that will expose them to additional radiation.

MRI and Kids

While staying still is essential for x-rays and CT scans, the actual equipment, and the procedure is fairly straightforward and not very frightening for kids. MRIs, however, can be very intimidating as they are big and loud: for both adults and kids! Preparing your child for the size of the machine, the banging and buzzing they might hear, and that they will be inside a tube-like structure. You will want to prepare your child for the type of clothing or gown they will be wearing, if they will be able to eat or drink, and whether they will need to be sedated during the exam (your doctor will let you know if this is the case). Kids like to know what is going on, just like adults, and the more they know about their scan the more comfortable it will be for them.


Aside from talking to your child, and letting them ask you and their doctor questions, there are many resources available to help your child learn more about medical imaging. Arnie’s MRI is an adorable book about an armadillo that falls off of his bicycle without wearing a helmet and needs an MRI. This book puts into words the fears that kids may have, and helps address them and stresses the importance of wearing a helmet. Jessica’s X-Ray includes six real x-rays printed on mylar to see what the scans actually look like and how they are helpful.  Another great online resource is RADZONE, an interactive game that lets you pick a character to get either an MRI, a CT scan, or an MRI. You are able to learn more about the scan you choose along with a fun, colorful, visual walkthrough of what your appointment may look like. A cheery wise owl helps guide you through the various steps, illustrating how each part of your visit may go. This can be great for children of all ages and is in an engaging format that will keep them interesting. Give your child as much information as possible before they get their imaging, and their pictures will most likely be better and you will avoid the possibility of needing repeat images.

Being informed about medical decisions is important for adults, and just as important for kids. Children are intimidated and scared by things that adults might not think of, so using additional resources to help educate your child is key. As a parent, you have the choice of where your child will receive their medical imaging, so choose wisely! If your child needs medical imaging, contact our imaging center today!