By learning about diagnostic medical imaging and asking informed questions, you're helping to ensure safe, appropriate and affordable health care 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 health care 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.
Important Questions to Ask Before You 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
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 may be inadequate for more sophisticated examinations.
- Why is this the best imaging facility for my
A common quality measure for imaging facilities, is certification by the American College of Radiology (you can learn about ACR certification at http://www.acr.org/). Also, because there is always a concern about decisions influenced by monitory gain, find out if your doctor has a financial interest in the imaging facility.
- What is your radiologist's specialty?
While his or her specialty is first radiology, most have further training in specific areas of diagnostic imaging (e.g. orthopedics, pediatrics or neuro-radiology), and a match of talent should be relevant to your condition.
Important 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.
Because children generally live longer than adults, they may be more sensitive to radiation and the potential for radiation exposure developing into cancer is more prevalent. Also, children's bodies are growing, which means their cells are dividing more rapidly than adults. This results in a greater opportunity for radiation to disrupt the growing process.
- Does the imaging facility scheduled to perform the
imaging test use radiation dose reduction techniques when scanning
The imaging facility should be able to provide you with information detailing how they reduce radiation doses.
- Will I be able to go with my child into the scanner
Often a parent can remain with a child during the procedure and even hold his or her hand. Confirm with your imaging facility whether you will be allowed to do this and let your child know what to expect.
- Does the imaging facility have an American College of
Certification by the American College of Radiology is a common quality measure for imaging facilities (you can learn about ACR certification at http://www.acr.org/). Also, 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.
Most doctors are fairly well-versed in the latest medical imaging technology and they should be happy to answer your questions. And remember, that while it is important to understand reasons why you may not need a medical imaging test, it is just as important to understand why you may need it. Remember that just because you or a loved one is a "patient," it doesn't mean that you should not be a wise "purchaser."
Take an active role in the diagnostic medical imaging process for your health and your child's health. Empower yourself with informed questions to reduce unnecessary radiation exposure and to improve your overall health care experience.