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Types of Imaging Services


Types of Imaging Services

Pediatric radiologists work with your child’s pediatrician to help guide decisions about which imaging study is best for your child. Each type of medical imaging has specific advantages to better-diagnose certain conditions. In some cases, more than one imaging technique is necessary for accurate diagnosis.


This technology, also called a radiograph, uses a low dose of radiation that passes through the body to make an image on a detector like film or a computer screen. These single images are used to diagnose a variety of conditions in your child’s:

  • Bones – To diagnose a fracture
  • Chest – To look at the heart or diagnose pneumonia or asthma
  • Abdomen – To look for a reason for abdominal pain
  • Spine – To measure curvature of the spine, also called scoliosis


Ultrasound tests don’t use radiation. Instead, they use sound waves to create images of the body. At Phoenix Children’s, we have been able to substitute ultrasound for radiation-based exams to evaluate appendicitis and bowel obstruction. We’ve also pioneered the use of ultrasound for treating and monitoring multiple conditions, which include slipping rib syndrome and MAGEC®  growing rods for children with spinal deformities.

Ultrasound tests are also used to diagnose problems in areas such as:

  • Brain – To find hydrocephalus or bleeding in infants
  • Neck – To examine lymph nodes for masses
  • Abdomen and pelvis – To diagnose appendicitis, kidney, liver and vascular problems
  • Arms and legs – To diagnose blood clots
  • Testes and ovaries – To look for torsion, diminished blood flow or tumors

We are currently partnering with Philips Healthcare - to evaluate new and emerging ultrasound technologies.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

These tests don’t use radiation. Instead, they use large magnets and radio waves that send information to a computer which creates images of internal organs and other body structures. Children may have an MRI to diagnose a problem in their:

  • Brain – To find a reason for headache or diagnose brain tumors, stroke and congenital abnormalities
  • Spine – To look for tumors or congenital malformations
  • Heart – To diagnose congenital heart disease
  • Abdomen and pelvis – To diagnose or monitor liver disease, tumors, irritable bowel disease
  • Bones – To look for a tumor or infection

Computed Tomography (CT)

CT scans combine X-ray images from several angles to create detailed images of organs and other structures inside the body. In some cases an intravenous (IV) contrast is used to make parts of the body show up more distinctly.

CT scans are used to diagnose many types of injuries and conditions. A doctor may recommend this test for problems with your child’s:

  • Bones – To diagnose complex fractures and deformities
  • Chest – To diagnose congenital heart disease and lung nodules, especially when cancer is diagnosed
  • Abdomen and pelvis – To diagnose appendicitis, renal stones, cancer and many other conditions
  • Brain – To diagnose stroke, reason for headache, and bleeding in the head, often used following head trauma


These examinations allow a pediatric radiologist to view the inside of the gastrointestinal tract (esophagus, stomach and bowel), the urinary tract (bladder, ureters, kidneys) and the mechanics of swallowing and breathing. Fluoroscopy may be used to examine children’s:

  • Upper airway – To diagnose aspiration or other causes of choking using a modified barium swallow
  • Esophagus and stomach – To diagnose reflux or anatomy before a gastrostomy tube (delivers nutrition directly to the stomach for children who have trouble eating) is placed
  • Bowel – To document narrowing or abnormal position of the bowel (malrotation) or other reason for obstruction
  • Colon and rectum - To look for abnormalities like Hirschsprung disease

Interventional Radiology

Interventional radiologists use imaging techniques to guide treatment procedures. Phoenix Children’s houses the Southwest’s only dedicated pediatric interventional radiology center. Our interventional radiology team provides services like:

  • Guiding biopsies of the kidneys, liver and other organs
  • Draining fluids or abscesses
  • Placing feeding tubes

Interventional radiology is also used to treat a number of diseases like:

  • Aneurysms. These are weak places in arteries that can bulge or balloon, and may rupture.
  • Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs). These are abnormal tangles of small vessels.
  • Blood clots­. These can be harmful if they block blood flow.
  • Bone tumors. These can be cancerous or benign.
  • Esophageal stricture. This is a narrowing of the esophagus, the tube that moves food to the stomach.
  • Excess fluid in the lungs. This can happen with pneumonia, trauma or other causes.
  • Kidney failure. This happens when the kidneys fail to remove wastes from the blood.
  • Liver conditions. These can include blockage of bile or blood flow, or other problems.

Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine is a form of molecular imaging, which is a process that provides detailed images of body processes. Nuclear medicine tests, like PET scans, use a small amount of radioactive material called a tracer to help in diagnosis. The tracer can be injected into the body or given orally, and the results can find and help treat diseases early. They can also show how a patient is responding to treatment. Doctors may recommend a nuclear medicine test to find problems in areas like:

  • Brain – To diagnose epilepsy and brain tumors
  • Bones – To look for infection and some fractures
  • Thyroid – To treat thyroid cancer or thyroiditis using radioactive iodine
  • Whole body – To see if cancer has spread
  • Other organ systems – To diagnose specific problems

Bone Density Scans

These tests are also called dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). They use a special type of X-ray technology to measure bone loss, or osteoporosis. In children, the whole body may be scanned. A number of conditions can lead to low bone density in children.

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