When a doctor recommends an MRI or CT scan for your child, your mind races with a million questions: Is it safe? What’s wrong?

Will it help diagnose the problem? Do they know how to take care of a child having an MRI? Will it hurt? Will she be scared? What can I do to make him feel more comfortable? What if she can’t hold still for the test? What if he freaks out? What if I freak out?

It’s normal to be concerned, but the first thing you need to do is to relax yourself! Remember, kids are like little sponges; they soak up the tension, concern and worry exuded by parents and caregivers and squeeze it out as the time for the test or procedure grows near.

Across the U.S., people of all ages undergo MRIs and other medical imaging procedures every day. Sure there are precautions that must be taken, but the healthcare professionals who will perform the tests are just that – professionals. They have received extensive and ongoing training in caring for both children and adults, and they and put that training into practice every day!

If there’s time, and there usually is, it’s best to talk to your child about the exam and what it will entail, said Karen Sykes, a nurse at Lexington Diagnostic Center and Open MRI. Sykes works directly with children undergoing diagnostic imaging, and their parents, to ensure they have the most comfortable experience possible.

There are a variety of ways to talk to your child about an MRI or CT, Sykes said. For younger kids, parents may compare the experience to getting a photograph taken. It’s something they are all familiar with (think smart phone cameras and selfies) and so it’s no big deal.

Kids who are especially inquisitive may want to know about the kind of “camera” being used and how it can take pictures of things inside your body. Showing them MRI and CT images online can help them understand and most kids are excited to learn that they will leave Lexington Diagnostic Center with a disk of their images they can view at home!

Older children may want to know about the science of an MRI or a CT. For them, you may want to do a little research so you can answer basic questions. “I recommend parents do some online research,” Sykes said. “There are videos available that show pediatric MRIs and teaches kids what will happen during the test.” Familiarity will be reassuring to children. YouTube has both live action and animated videos.

Some parents employ a little “bribery” to ensure cooperation: a special treat after successful completion of the exam. For a little one, that might mean an ice cream cone. For an older child, perhaps it’s a Mommie-and-Me day at the beauty salon or a new video game. Make it something you’ll both look forward to and remember

Reassure your child that the people who will be taking care of them will do their very best for them. At Lexington Diagnostic Center, a parent or loved one may sit or stand beside the MRI machine so the child never feels alone in the exam room.

During the actual exam, the technologist may ask the child to play a little game that will help them to hold very still. The child may be asked to pretend they are in a rocket ship taking off for the moon; or are a statue in the park; or even frozen. The games are designed to help the child hold still during the active scan period.

Depending on the test, you may be able to accompany the child into the scan room during the procedure. Kids can choose their own music during the scan and younger ones may be able to take a favorite blanket into the scanner with them. All kids having a scan at Lexington Diagnostic Center receive a stuffed animal to take home after the test.

A lot of parents ask about open MRI for their kids, Sykes said, but this equipment may not be the best choice … it requires children to hold still for much longer periods of time, Sykes noted. “Parents ask about open MRI because they may be a little claustrophobic themselves,” she said, “But it’s important to remember there’s a lot more room in an MRI machine when you’re a 50-pound child than when you are 200-pound adult male. Claustrophobia may not even be a problem.”

“The vast majority of the time, we can get a scan done for a child when no one else has been able to,” Sykes said, “because we work very hard to help the child and parent feel comfortable and at ease. Our facility isn’t as scary as a hospital and we certainly take the time to work with them one-to-one,” she noted. “We treat every patient with warmth and compassion and we are especially skilled at working with patients and children with special needs, including infants, children, the elderly and those with developmental disabilities.”

If your child is scheduled to have an MRI, CT scan, ultrasound, nuclear medicine or even a general X-ray, give Lexington Diagnostic Center a call at (859) 278-7226 Or call toll free 800-755-7441 to learn more about our child – and family-friendly services. You’ll be glad you did.

Meet Nurse Karen Sykes
Karen Sykes, a licensed practical nurse, is originally from Elkhorn City deep in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky.

She returned to the mountains after attending school at Eastern Kentucky University. It was at this time that she found her life’s work: nursing. Sykes graduated from the nursing program at Mayo Tech in 1982. During her career, she has worked in all areas of nursing, including pediatrics, cardiac, geriatrics, critical care, neurology, IV therapy and emergency services.

Sykes came to Lexington Diagnostic Center in 1999 to “help out for a couple of days” while the practice searched for a full-time nurse. After a short time, Sykes came to realize Lexington Diagnostic was where she needed to be.

Seventeen years later, Sykes provides all of the nursing care at the Center and serves on the practice’s management team. She, and her staff, will take on any challenge, but patient care is her specialty. Her patients often comment on how kind and caring she is, how they felt like they were the only patient Sykes had that day. Her compassion and experience make it possible for her to care for a diverse patient population, including infants, those with special needs, the very ill and elderly.

A mother of two (and grandmother, too), Sykes knows what it’s like to have a sick child and works hard to put parents’ minds at ease and to answer all questions in a way that is complete, concise and understandable.