Dr. Lonergan Explains the Difference in Imaging for Children and Adults


Anchor: It can be a scary and stressful time when your child needs medical attention, but the team at ARA Diagnostic Imaging specializes in extra special care for kids. Pediatric Radiologist, Dr. Gael Lonergan, is here to share more. Thanks for being with us this morning.

Dr. Lonergan: Thank you, Taylor.

Anchor: So, how is imaging different for children than it is for adults?

Dr. Lonergan: Well, two main reasons. One is that children get very different disease processes than adults do. They get different infections, they get different congenital disorders, they get all sorts of different things than adults. So, when we’re looking at imaging for a child and trying to figure out what’s wrong with them, we’re really looking for a different kind of appearance on the radiographs.

Anchor: Yeah. So with that said, is there different training needed to work with kids?

Dr. Lonergan: So most, well actually all, Pediatric Radiologists have done at least one year, sometimes two, of fellowship training after they finish their radiology residency. The other thing that’s very different about children is they’re very small so they’re quite sensitive to radiation.

Anchor: Yeah

Dr. Lonergan: We’re very mindful of that in the world of pediatric imaging.

Anchor: Definitely

Dr. Lonergan: We try to limit how much radiation they get and what we try to do, and what we have been very successful at is converting a lot of exams that we would normally do with CT to ultrasound.

Anchor: Oh, okay

Dr. Lonergan: And this is a nice example of an ultrasound of the appendix. And I know it looks like a radar weather map.

Anchor: There’s a lot going on but I’m glad you understand what’s happening, that’s why you’re the expert.

Dr. Lonergan: And what we can see is this is actually a normal appendix

Anchor: Oh, okay

Dr. Lonergan: Right here. And we can use ultrasound now in about 80 to 90 percent of cases and be able to diagnose appendicitis or tell a worried family that their child doesn’t have appendicitis, which is also important, just by using ultrasound and not having to use CT.

Anchor: That’s fantastic. So this would be an example of an x-ray?

Dr. Lonergan: Yes, so this is an x-ray. In this case, radiologists were able to diagnose the problem and also treat the problem which doesn’t happen that often. In this case, the child has a condition called intussusception as you can see up there. It’s where bowel telescopes on itself, and we’re able to use air and sort of put it back in the right position so the child doesn’t have to go into surgery. This is something that we do probably 2-3 times a month for children in Austin, so it’s pretty common problem and it’s nice to save them the surgery.

Anchor: Yeah, most definitely. It’s good to hear there are options out there. What about psychologically; how do you work with children and create an environment that they’re comfortable with?

Dr. Lonergan: Well, we try to make it really colorful and friendly. Toys, lots of wall murals, so when you walk into our children’s imaging center, you think you’re in maybe an elementary school with our books or you’re in a pre-school because it’s so colorful. We have lots of things; in this case, this young child is in the MRI unit and we sort of put them in there first to let them get a feel for what it’s like to have the MRI done so they’re not scared.

Anchor: Oh great, so they’re comfortable. You create an environment that they feel okay in. So, how do you get a good exam if the child was upset?

Dr. Lonergan: So a couple things. The parents are in the room for basically every exam, so that alone is very calming. If they are upset, our staff is really used to working with children and we’re pretty good about getting them to calm down. Doesn’t always work; when we need to we can use some sedation. Mostly just to take some anxiety away; the exams rarely cause any pain.

Anchor: Yeah

Dr. Lonergan: This is our waiting room, where we have a little make-believe MRI scanner and this little boy is actually doing an MRI scan on his teddy bear.

Anchor: Which is really cute. We’ve been watching a video of that as well. So you guys really are creating an environment where people can feel comfortable and have their optimal health taken care of, right?

Dr. Lonergan: Yes

Anchor: Thank you so much for sharing that with us. So how could someone reach out to you or if they do have a child that might need medical attention, what’s the best way to start that journey?

Dr. Lonergan: If we need imaging, we go to children’s imaging center, right next to Dell Children’s Hospital. It’s part of ARA; lots of information on ARA website.

Anchor: And there’s that info you have on the screen. Thanks so much, doctor, for being with us.

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