diagnostic imaging - what to expect

Our team of imaging professionals know how to care for children. We know that the tests your child may have to undergo can be frightening. Some of the machines are big and can make scary noises. Working with children is our specialty, and we know how to make you and your child comfortable for the tests required to help your child get better.

We offer full-service imaging at each hospital in the Bon Secours Richmond Health System. Children with more difficult to diagnose cases may be sent to St. Mary's Hospital for additional testing.

Convenient Location and Easy-Access Registration

For outpatient procedures, your child's physician will refer you to us for testing. For your convenience, we offer free parking, and at St. Mary's Hospital, you can take advantage of the free valet parking. The outpatient radiology registration area of each Bon Secours hospital is conveniently located in an easy-to-access, comfortable waiting area where you and your child will wait until called for testing.

Children staying in the hospital will be brought down to the imaging labs from their rooms and results will be given to the physician that has requested the testing. The physician will then explain the results to you.

Keeping Your Child Safe and Comfortable

Our specially trained pediatric radiologists , interventional radiologists, technologists, and nurses will explain the test to you in easy-to-understand terms and will talk to your child about the test in a way that will put him or her at ease. You can stay in the testing room with your child for some of the tests. For others, you may be asked to leave the testing room. But rest assured; at least one caregiver will always be with your child to see to his or her comfort and safety during the tests.

Quick Results

We send the results of your child's tests to the referring physician, who will then explain them to you. Some test results take longer than others. If your child is staying in the hospital, we do our best to get the results to your child's physician as quickly as possible.

For outpatient testing, we also try to get the results to your child's physician as soon as we can. Please understand that some tests are more complex, and it may take several days for your child's physician to contact you with the results.

Types of Diagnostic and Imaging Tests

Bon Secours offers many imaging tests for children, including:

CT Scan
Nuclear Imaging

CT Scan

A CT scan, short for computed tomography scan, is a safe, painless type of x-ray that takes 2-dimensional or 3-dimensional images. During a CT scan, your child will lie on a table that passes through a device shaped like a donut called a gantry. Inside the gantry, the x-ray tube moves around the patient in the area of the body being examined. Our technologists and radiologists are specially trained to work with children and can help you calm your child's fears.

If the scan will be of your child's abdomen or pelvis, your child may have to drink a thick milkshake-like liquid called barium. This drink acts like a coating in the digestive system to help those parts of the body show up more clearly on the scan. Sometimes the physician will request an additional contrast media often called x-ray dye to be injected directly into one of your child's veins. This is usually done in one of the arms. Be sure to tell your child's physician if your child has any allergies. In rare instances, some people have had allergic reactions to the contrast; however, our physicians and staff are trained and equipped for that situation and can respond appropriately.

Before a CT scan, your child's physician will instruct you to:

  • Explain the exam to your child in clear, easy-to-understand words
  • Tell your child that the CT scan will not hurt; it just makes a lot of noise
  • Not give your infant or child any solid food (clear liquids are OK) for 4 hours before the exam if he or she will be given contrast agent
  • Not give your infant or child any food or drink for 4 hours before the exam if he or she will be sedated
  • Dress your child comfortably in clothing without zippers, snaps, or buckles
  • Remove glasses and any barrettes or other metal clips or bands in your child's hair for a CT scan of the head

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EEG is the short name of a test called electroencephalogram. An EEG is a harmless and painless test that measures and records brain waves. This test is usually done to help diagnose seizures or other neurological conditions. Sometimes it is used to test the brain when your child has a sleep disorder.

Brain cells give out a small amount of electrical activity that is recorded through electrodes, which look like little buttons with wires attached to them. For the test, your child will be asked to lie down on a table or stretcher. A technologist will mark spots on your child's head with a washable marker to show where to put the electrodes. A small amount of sticky gel will be put on the electrodes to help them stick to your child's scalp.
There may be 10 to 20 electrodes used in the test. The wires on the electrodes lead to an EEG machine that records your child's brain activity.

Movement can disturb the recordings of the brain's activity, so your child will be instructed to lie quietly during the test.

Preparing for an EEG is simple. Your child's physician may give you a set of special instructions in addition the tips below.

  • Explain the test in clear, easy-to-understand terms to your child
  • Wash your child's hair the night before. Do not use any hair spray, oils, gels, or mousse and do not braid your child's hair
  • Bring a favorite toy or blanket to the testing room
  • Bring a list with you to the exam of all medications that your child is taking. You can give your child any of his or her normal medications the night before and the day of the exam
  • Do not give your child any drinks that have caffeine, such as soda, tea, or coffee

Sometimes the test measures sleeping and waking brain activity. If this is the case, keep your child awake later than his or her normal bedtime or wake your child 2 to 3 hours earlier than normal. Do not let your child nap before the test. For infants, do not let your child nap 2 to 4 hours before the exam.

An EEG takes about 1 hour. After the test, your child's scalp will be wiped clean with a wet cloth. Some of the sticky gel used to hold the electrodes in place may need to be washed out at home.
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Fluoroscopy is a type of x-ray that takes moving images. It allows your child's physician to see parts of the body in real time. A conventional x-ray gives a still image like a photograph, but fluoroscopy is like watching a movie. Bon Secours offers many different types of fluoroscopy procedures that your child could have.

When your child is having a fluoroscopic exam, the technologist will instruct him or her to lie down on a table. An x-ray machine called a fluoro tower will be moved over your child, and a curtain will cover the sides. A contrast media called barium may be given to your child for the test. This contrast media may be given as a drink, infused into the rectum, injected through an existing tube (J or G tube), or injected into a stoma. As the contrast agent moves through your child's body, the fluoro tower will be positioned to follow the contrast agent. The technologist will be able to see the contrast agent moving through your child's body on a special x-ray viewing screen.

Depending on the type of test being given, your child's physician will instruct you on how to prepare your child for the test.
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Nuclear Imaging

Nuclear imaging uses a small amount of radioactive material to view anatomy and physiology inside your child's body. This material may be injected into a vein, infused into the bladder, or consumed (eaten or swallowed). It may be given to your child immediately before the exam or several hours before the exam. This will depend on the exam requested and the indication. The radioactive material is safe and it exits your child's body within 24 hours following the test. To perform a nuclear imaging exam, your child is asked to lie down on a table. The technologist will instruct your child to lie quietly for 30 to 60 minutes while the test is being performed. Above the table there is a special x-ray camera called a gamma camera that is used by the technologist to acquire images of the affected area of your child's body. Additional pictures are sometimes taken with the gamma camera moving in a circle around your child's body.

Usually the only pain involved in the test is the injection of the radioactive material into your child's vein. Some tests may require that a catheter, a thin flexible tube, be inserted into your child's bladder. This may be uncomfortable for your child but does not hurt.
Some children may need to be sedated for the test.

If there are any special instructions before the test, your child's physician will give them to you. You are allowed to stay with your child during the test.
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An ultrasound machine uses sound waves higher than humans can hear. A device that looks like a microphone, called a transducer, sends ultrasound waves through the skin and into the body. These sound waves reflect off of structures inside the body, such as bones or tissues, and travels back toward the transducer, which connects to a computer and control panel and turns the sound waves into images. To perform the test, the technologist will rub a warm gel-like substance over the part of the body to be tested. This gel helps the sound waves move from the transducer into body and from the body back into the transducer. The technologist will then press the transducer against your child's skin in the area covered with gel in back, forth, and sometimes circular motions. Ultrasounds usually last about 30 minutes and are safe and painless.

For a kidney or ultrasound of the pelvic area for newborns to children up to 2 years old, your physician will instruct you to:

  • Give your child plenty of fluids the day of exam
  • Not give your child formula or food 3 hours prior to exam. Water is allowed up to exam time
  • Bring a full bottle of formula or a bottle of expressed breast milk. It may be needed during the exam
  • For a kidney or ultrasound of the pelvic area for children 2 years to 18 years old, your physician will instruct you to:
  • Give your child plenty of fluids the day of the exam
  • Not allow your child to urinate for at least 1 hour before the study so that the bladder will be full, if your child is toilet trained

For ultrasounds of the abdomen, head, or hip for newborns to children up to 2 years old, no food or drink is allowed 3 hours before the ultrasound. For infants, please bring a full bottle of formula or expressed breast milk. For children 2 years to 18 years old , do not give your child any food or drink 6 hours before the exam.
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X-rays use electromagnetic radiation to take black and white pictures of your child's bones, organs, and blood vessels. X-rays are usually performed by a trained radiology technologist and then read by a radiologist. A radiologist is a doctor who has specialized in non-invasive diagnosis. The results from the x-ray are shared with your child's doctor. X-rays are painless and are very safe for your child.

X-rays are most often used to take pictures of broken or fractured bones, but are useful for diagnosing other problems as well. A chest x-ray can be taken to show lung problems, such as pneumonia or fluid in the lungs. Chest x-rays can also be taken to diagnose heart problems such as an enlarged heart or fluid around the heart.

To take x-ray images, a large machine sends a wave of electrons into the area of the body that your child's doctor wants to see. This energy passes through body tissue and is transferred onto a receiving plate and then to a sheet of special film. When this plate is processed, it looks like a photographic negative. On the picture, the bones show up as bright (whitish), well-defined structures. Because organ tissue and muscle mass absorb less energy, they show up as darker (grayer or blacker), more shadowy objects on the picture. Abnormalities such as a broken bone will absorb the energy differently, and therefore often can be identified on the film.

To have an x-ray taken, your child will be asked to put on a lead-lined x-ray gown or apron (x-rays cannot penetrate lead). The apron is used to protect your child's reproductive organs. Depending on the area to be x-rayed, he or she may be allowed to stay dressed in street clothes. Your child will then be asked to either stand in front of or lie down on a table under the x-ray machine. During the time the x-rays are taken, the technologist will ask your child to hold very still. If your child is very young, the technologist may use straps, special pillows, or sandbags to keep your child from moving. It is very important that your child remain still during these images so the radiologist and your physician can get a clear image.

You may be allowed to stay in the room with your child while he or she is being x-rayed. You may also be asked to wear a lead-lined gown. Pregnant women are not allowed to stay in the x-ray room during the test.

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