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Did Your Newborn Suffer Cerebral
Palsy or Another Brain Injury Before
or During Labor and Delivery?

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Our Birth Brain Injury Resource Guide

the guide

Get a FREE guide of resources available throughout Ohio to children and families of children who were born with brain injuries.

Our guide can help you build a foundation of knowledge and tools that will help you help your child
now and in the future.

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Diagnostic Procedures - Medical Imaging

Medical imaging is a method of diagnostic testing that can be used to detect and view possible injuries and internal problems. Imaging is a non-invasive test that is relatively easy to perform.

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There are a number of procedures that may be utilized in the diagnosis of medical conditions such as brain injuries in children. Medical imaging is a good option for many babies and young children because it provides a detailed review with minimal discomfort or negative consequences.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

An MRI is a procedure that uses magnetic fields along with radio waves to view and transmit the inside of the body. During an MRI the patient is stationary while the test is completed, which may take 20 minutes to 90 minutes. The scan will show an image of the brain which can be evaluated to determine injuries. The test can be repeated later to see if there have been any significant changes to the patient.

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Ultrasound imaging, also called sonography, uses sound waves to view the internal workings of various parts of the body. It is often used to view the fetus in during pregnancy. Ultrasounds are useful for locating bleeding on the brain in patients with brain injuries. The exact location of a hemorrhage is necessary to perform medical procedures. For example, a hemorrhage may need to be reviewed so that surgery can be completed to relieve pressure.

Pediatric X-ray Imaging

X-rays are likely the type of medical imaging that people are most familiar with. Pediatric x-rays are used for the diagnosis of many types of conditions and injuries. There are various types of medical imaging procedures that may be used specifically on children.

  • CT Scan - Computed tomography, CT, uses multiple images that are reconstructed by a computer. The CT is needed to determine where to put a catheter or to get an overall image of the brain. Repeated CT scans may be performed so the medical team can assess whether damage is increasing or remaining the same.
  • Radiography - Radiography provides doctors with a single image. The image is recorded so that it can be reviewed later. It is also helpful to review several or more images taken over a period of time so that any changes may be noted. This is commonly referred to as simply an x-ray.
  • Fluoroscopy - A fluoroscopy is an x-ray that is made continuously. The image is displayed on a screen so the doctor may monitor a procedure. When a catheter is placed, for instance, the medical team may use this method to ensure proper placement throughout the procedure. It may also be used with a dye substance to better see the functionality of the area being assessed. The fluoroscopy may cause elevated radiation exposure when it is used continuously.

Risks and Benefits of Diagnostic Procedures

There are few risks associated with many of the medical imaging procedures. Diagnostics are essential to the proper diagnosis and treatment of patients. The risks are minimal when compared with the benefits of obtaining useful, timely information that is critical to patient care. However, doctors must be cautious when using x-rays, particularly on children. Although the process is not invasive, there could be residual damage caused by passing x-rays through the body.

When performing x-rays on pediatric patients, doctors should be aware of an increased sensitivity to radiation over adult patients. Proper settings must be used to ensure that the smallest possible radiation levels are utilized. The long-term risk to patients increases with increased exposure to radiation over a lifetime. Therefore, diagnostics that use radiation should be used only when necessary to the child’s treatment and care.