Know Before You Go
By learning about diagnostic medical imaging and asking informed questions, you’re helping to ensure safe, appropriate and affordable healthcare for yourself and your family. We urge you to educate yourself about each and every diagnostic exam or procedure you’re considering and then talk with your doctor to ensure that you fully understand your options.
Because children may be more sensitive to the radiation exposure as a consequence of some diagnostic imaging, it is especially important for parents to be healthcare advocates for their children. To make the best choices in the interest of your child’s health, talk with your child’s physician and ask informed questions.
Questions to Ask Before You or Your Children Get a Scan
- Is the diagnostic medical imaging test necessary?
Your doctor’s training and experience are sometimes all that are needed to take care of your health problem, without the need for diagnostic imaging. Or, there may be an alternative medical diagnostic imaging test, such as an MRI, that does not use radiation.
- How old is the scanner and when was the software upgraded?
Both the scanner and the software should have been updated within the last few years.
- What is the strength of the imaging equipment?
Closed MRI machines should be at least one Tesla (a measure of scan strength) to obtain a superior quality examination. For open MRI machines, half a Tesla is the norm, but it may be inadequate for more sophisticated examinations.
- Why is this the best imaging facility for my test?
There are different facilities that can provide diagnostic imaging services. Click here to download information about the different types of places that offer services. In addition, you’ll want a quality facility that is certified by the American College of Radiology. You can learn about ACR certification at http://www.acr.org/. Find out if your doctor has a financial interest in the imaging facility. If they do, they may recommend it for the wrong reasons. Be sure to ask whether the imaging technologists have credentials and if the person interpreting the test is a board-certified radiologist or pediatric radiologist.
- What is your radiologist’s specialty?
Most radiologists have further training in specific areas of diagnostic imaging (e.g., orthopedics, pediatrics or neuroradiology), and you’ll want your test from a provider whose experience is relevant to your condition.
Questions to Ask Before Your Child Gets a Scan
- Could a non-radiation imaging test be just as useful for my child?
Many childhood diseases and conditions can be diagnosed using state-of-the-art diagnostic medical imaging equipment, and countless children have benefited from this technology. Still, unnecessary radiation exposure during medical procedures should be avoided whenever possible – especially for children. Children may be more sensitive to radiation, and have a greater potential for complications from radiation exposure. Children’s bodies are growing, which means their cells are dividing more rapidly than adults, and there is a greater opportunity for radiation-exposed cells to spread.
- Does the imaging facility scheduled to perform the imaging test use radiation dose reduction techniques when scanning children?
The imaging facility should be able to provide you with information about how they reduce radiation doses.
- Will I be able to go with my child into the imaging room?
Often a parent can remain with a child during the procedure and even hold their hand. Confirm with your imaging facility whether you will be allowed to do this and let your child know what to expect.
Most doctors are fairly well-versed in the latest medical imaging technology, and they should be happy to answer your questions. Remember, while it is important to understand why you may not need a medical imaging test, it is just as important to understand why you may need it. Even though you or your loved one is a patient, you can still make educated decisions and be an intelligent purchaser.