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Radiology

Radiology Questions and Answers

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Radiology Questions and Answers

Does my child's doctor need to order all exams?

Yes.

Much like a pharmacy needs a prescription from your doctor to give you some medicines, our department requires a referral (sometimes called a requisition, order or request) from a healthcare provider who is licensed to order radiology exams. These providers include physicians (MD), nurse practitioners (ARNP, NP) or physician assistants (PA).

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Does my child need an appointment?

It depends on the exam.

We perform diagnostic tests, such as X-rays of the chest or of suspected broken bones, without appointments (walk-in tests).

We make appointments to perform more specialized exams, including fluoroscopy (upper GI series, VCUG, barium enema), ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear medicine (NM), positron emission tomography (PET) and bone density scans (DEXA).

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What paperwork should I bring with me?

For an unscheduled walk-in X-ray, please bring a written request from your child's doctor or call ahead to make sure that the doctor has faxed a referral to us. If you received any appointment slips or instructions about preparing for the exam, please bring those, too.

Bring a list of your child's current medicines and information about your child's allergies. We don't need this information for simple X-rays, but sometimes your child will be scheduled for other exams during the same appointment, and we will need the information.

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Do I need to do anything special to prepare my child for the exam?

Different tests require different preparation.

We will tell you how to prepare your child when you schedule the exam. In addition, our family service representative will call you the day before your child's exam to review the instructions. When your child's appointment is scheduled far enough in advance, we will include this information on a list of your child's appointments that we will mail to your address.

You also can review instructions for specific exams by reading our patient education materials.

If we are planning to give your child medicine to make them sleep (anesthesia) before the exam, someone from Children's Anesthesiology Department will call you the day before the exam to go over instructions. If you have any questions, please call 206-987-2089.

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How much radiation will my child get and what are the effects?

Some imaging procedures, including ultrasound and MRI, don't use radiation. In procedures that do use radiation, such as Fluoroscopy, X-ray and CT, the dose varies. The amount of radiation that your child is exposed to during an imaging procedure like an X-ray is usually so small that the risk of damage is extremely low. No radiation remains after these images are made. For Nuclear Medicine and PET/CT procedures your child is injected with a radioactive tracer, most of which will leave your child's body within a day. Your child's healthcare provider takes the risk of radiation exposure into account when ordering an exam. They decide if the benefits of the exam outweigh the small risk.

At Seattle Children's, we are experts in the special needs of your growing child. We understand that radiation doses are of crucial importance in caring for children. We are very careful to use the lowest radiation dose possible to produce the best image for your child's radiologist to evaluate.

For more information, please read our radiation exposure handout (PDF).

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How long will my child's exam take?

Radiology exam times vary greatly. Some take a few minutes, while others can take many hours.

For questions about your child's exam, please call 206-987-2089, or see our patient education materials on the diagnostic tests we offer.

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How do I get my child's exam results?

For results, contact the healthcare provider who ordered your child's exam.

In most cases, our radiologists read exams within 24 hours of your child's test. We fax the report to the healthcare provider who ordered the exam. When there is a serious finding, our radiologists call the healthcare provider who ordered the test right away.

There are some fluoroscopic exams where the radiologist will give the preliminary results right after the test.

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Will my insurance cover this test?

It depends on your insurance company, your plan and sometimes on the reasons for the exam.

Some types of imaging tests, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT scans), require approval from your insurance company before we do the exam. Seattle Children's will make every effort to contact your insurance company to get approval for the exam. In some cases, this may cause up to a two-week wait for an appointment. It is a good idea for you to check with your insurance company about payment before scheduling your child's exam. That way, you will know if and how much they will pay.

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Can the technologist who performs my child's exam tell me if anything is wrong?

Only doctors called radiologists are qualified to read diagnostic images such as X-rays.

When the technologist checks them, it is to make sure the quality is good enough for the radiologist to read them.

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Why does the radiologist have to look at my child's images? Doesn't my child's doctor look at them?

A radiologist is a medical doctor specially trained to read radiology images, including X-rays. Our radiologists write a report about your child's images and send it to your child's doctor.

All of Children's doctors, and most doctors outside of our clinics, can see your child's radiology images on our secure website.

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Can I get a copy of my child's X-rays?

Yes. Children's Image Library can give you a free CD copy of your child's images.

Please call 206-987-2089 for instructions on how to fill out the medical release authorization form (PDF).

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Can my child's brother or sister be in the room during the exam?

It is not OK for children other than the patient to be in the room during the exam.

Imaging exams are medical procedures. Our staff must concentrate and focus to get good images. Your child's job is to pay good attention and cooperate. Many radiology exams emit a small amount of radiation. To avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation, siblings and pregnant women are not allowed in the exam room. In some cases, one parent is allowed in the room if they wear a lead apron to protect them from radiation.

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What's the difference between CT and MRI?

CT, or computed tomography, is a special type of X-ray used to make pictures of the body's tissues and structure. Because it uses X-rays, CT exposes people to a low dose of radiation. CT imaging usually takes about five to 10 minutes.

MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, uses magnets and radio waves to create images of the body. MRI does not use radiation. MRI is very good at making images of the brain and spine (central nervous system) and soft tissues. MRI usually takes about 30 minutes, and patients must hold very still during the exam. Because of this, children younger than 6 years usually take medicine to put them to sleep (anesthesia) before an MRI.

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What does the MRI sound like?

During an MRI scan, the magnet makes some thumping and humming noises. Although these sounds may be scary at first, they are harmless. Click on the links below to hear some sounds the MRI makes. The first sound is the MRI in "standby" mode, and the next three are the thumping sounds your child may hear during an MRI. All files are MP3s.

* Standby
* Cycle one
* Cycle two
* Cycle three

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Whom can I call if my child isn't feeling well or gets sick after the exam when we are back home?

After the exam, we will give you instructions on caring for your child at home. If you have questions about how your child is feeling after the exam, please call 206-987-2133 to talk with a technologist.

If your child has trouble breathing or any other medical emergency, call 911 right away.

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Can I give any medicine to calm or relax my child before the exam?

Do not give your child any medicine to relax them before the exam. Any medicines used to calm or relax your child need to be given by Children's qualified nurses and medical staff so that we can monitor your child.

If you want to learn whether your child might do better during the exam with sedation or have questions about sedation or anesthesia, please call 206-987-2089.

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How can a child life specialist help?

A child life specialist can: 

* Explain a diagnosis or treatment in words your child or teen can understand.
* Create a coping plan your child can use during a medical test or procedure.
* Offer support during and after a medical test or procedure.
* Use play to help your child understand medical procedures and express feelings.
* Work with medical staff to assess your child's unique needs.
* Give you information about child development and the effects of healthcare.
* Teach techniques to help your child cope and relax.

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