Pediatric X-Ray: About Your Child's Test

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What is it?

An X-ray is a picture of the inside of your child's body. Depending on the part of his or her body to be X-rayed, it may show bones, organs, foreign objects, or pockets of air or fluid. Any part of the body can be X-rayed, including the head, chest, belly, arms, and legs.

Why is this test done?

Doctors use X-rays to help find out what is wrong, what is causing pain, or where a foreign object may be located in your child's body. Your doctor may also order an X-ray after placing a tube in your child's body as part of his or her treatment. The X-ray can help show if the tube is in the right position.

How can you prepare your child for the test?

  • Reassure your child that the X-ray doesn't hurt and that it will be over quickly.
  • Tell your child what to expect, from the sections below. The X-ray room will have unfamiliar devices in it, and it may be cold. Reassure your child that you will be close by at all times.
  • Many children are curious about what their "insides" look like. Others find the test scary. You can help take the mystery out of the test by asking your doctor or X-ray technician if your child can look at the X-ray when it's done.

What happens before the test?

  • If your child's belly is being X-rayed, your child may have to empty his or her bladder before the test.
  • Your child will need to take off jewellery that might be in the way of the X-ray picture.
  • All or most of any clothes around the area being X-rayed may need to be removed. Your child may be given a gown to wear during the test.
  • A lead shield will be placed over your child's pelvic area to protect it from radiation.

What happens during the test?

  • More than one X-ray view may be taken, sometimes from different angles.
  • Your child will need to hold very still while the X-ray is taken. A padded brace, foam pads, a headband, or sandbags may be used to hold his or her body in place while the pictures are taken, depending on what part of the body is being X-rayed.
  • If your child has pain from an injury, there may be some discomfort if he or she needs to hold a certain position.

What else should you know about the test?

  • X-rays don't show everything. Muscles and ligaments don't show up in a useful way on an X-ray. An abdominal X-ray cannot find certain problems, such as a bleeding stomach ulcer.
  • If your child's X-ray doesn't give a clear picture, more specific X-rays, such as a CT scan, or other tests like an ultrasound or MRI scan may be done.

How long does the test take?

  • The test will take about 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the part of your child's body being X-rayed. You might be asked to stay longer if a picture needs to be retaken.

What happens after the test?

  • You and your child will probably be able to go home right away.
  • Your child can go back to his or her usual activities right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines your child takes. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your child's test results.

Where can you learn more?

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