Health Team

Pediatric radiologists help children

Posted November 5, 2009 3:59 p.m. EST
Updated November 6, 2009 9:46 a.m. EST

— When sick children need X-rays or other medical imaging, a radiologist who doesn't specialize in children might miss a symptom or misdiagnose a condition.

The parents of James Carlin, 7, brought him to Wake Radiology after he got into accident while skateboarding. "I was flying off my skateboard," James described the accident.

James's left foot hurt when he tried to walk on it. He got an X-ray to see if it was broken.

Wake Radiology employs pediatric radiologists who only work with children between birth and 18 years old.

Radiologist Dr. Margaret Douglas said that specialty gives them more expertise than general radiologists.

"You're good at what you do all day long," she said.

And in some rare cases, that expertise can even help some children avoid surgery, she said.

Douglas remembered one time when a general radiologist suspected a large shadow above a child's heart was a tumor. Instead, it was just the thymus gland, which will shrink as a child gets older until it won't show up in X-rays anymore.

"If you're reading adult films all day long, this can be sort of startling," she said. "We expect to see this shadow. We're not surprised by it. We wouldn't worry that it's a tumor."

In James's case, the radiologists determined that he had sprained his leg, instead of breaking it.

Pediatric radiologists are also generally more aware that children require smaller doses of radiation than adults.

While major hospitals generally have pediatric radiologists, personnel at private radiology centers usually treat both adults and children.

Wake Radiology officials, though, felt that the Triangle has become large enough to need a pediatric clinic. When WakeMed opens its new children's hospital next year, Wake Radiology's pediatric specialists will be among those working with those young patients.