What Parents Should Know About Medical Scans for Children

by Mother Huddle Staff
Medical Scans for Children

There are several types of medical scans used to examine the human body. Some, like X-rays, are painless. However, some other scanning techniques can be very noisy and tend to involve more uncomfortable procedures.

When your child needs a scan that may not be completely clear to them, it can help if you explain what’s involved in the procedure. This article describes some of the most commonly used pediatric diagnostic scans and what parents should know about them.

MRI Scan

An MRI scan is a non-invasive procedure that creates cross-sectional images of the inside of the body using a powerful magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy. It is crucial to prepare your child for an MRI scan before the procedure to diagnose problems such as abnormal blood pressure. Yes, kids can have them, too! 

What parents need to know:

  • The strong magnetic field may affect rare, implanted medical devices such as pacemakers and cochlear implants. Your child’s doctor will need to check the device before having your child undergo an MRI scan if they have one of these devices.
  • Your child will need to lie very still during the procedure. Children who can’t remain still for a long time may need to take medication that will help them relax. Their favorite stuffed animal or book can also help them.
  • To protect against the noise of the machine, your child may be given earplugs. Some children may be scared by the machine’s noise, so you should let your doctor know if your child can’t tolerate loud sounds.


A pediatric ultrasound scan is a painless procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the inside of the body. It can diagnose and treat many conditions such as cancer, blood clots, kidney stones, liver problems and heart defects.

What parents need to know:

  • Your child may feel some pressure on their skin when the transducer (the device used for transmitting and receiving sound waves) is placed on the body. Your doctor will make sure that your child is always comfortable and well-hydrated during the procedure.
  • Most procedures use a special kind of gel applied on your child’s skin to make the transducer glide smoothly over the body. Your pediatrician may also cover your child’s genitals with a small diaper-like covering to avoid unnecessary exposure of private parts to the ultrasound waves.


X-rays are electromagnetic radiation that can pass through body tissues to create images inside the body. They are used for diagnosing many conditions, such as broken bones, cancer and infection.

What parents need to know:

  • Children who have had an X-ray done before should let their pediatrician know if they’ve had any changes in their health since the last X-ray was performed.
  • X-rays may be uncomfortable, particularly for people who have a fear of confined spaces. If your child needs to undergo this procedure, you should tell their pediatrician about any concerns. 
  • Dress your child in comfortable clothes without buttons and metals on them. Children with a pacemaker, artificial joints, surgical staples and orthodontic braces may need additional preparation to ensure they do not interfere with images and the procedure remains safe.

Pediatric scans are beneficial in diagnosing and treating illness. Prepare your child for the procedure by explaining what they need to do. Most importantly, you and your pediatrician should talk about any concerns you may have before the process is done.

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