As a parent of a child was has Down syndrome, I am grateful to live in Cincinnati. Home to a vibrant and active Down Syndrome Association as well as one of the best children’s hospitals in the world, our city can provide excellent support and resources to families who have members with Down Syndrome.
As a pediatric radiologist, I know that there are many reasons why a child with Down syndrome would need radiological services. The child may have been born with congenital heart disease or gastrointestinal malformations that require imaging. These would get performed in the usual, careful manner as with any other baby born with similar conditions. As the child gets older, modifications may need to be made in comparison to other similarly aged children in order to gain cooperation for radiological examinations. For example, in fluoroscopic studies such as an upper GI or a video swallowing study, we need to see the child swallowing using our fluoroscopic machine. Also, one may consider sedation or anesthesia such as for an MRI study if it is not possible for the child to stay still for the examination. The sedation or anesthesia is provided by pediatric anesthesia specialists.
Although children with Down syndrome have similar characteristics, each child is a unique individual, and I have found that tailoring the exam to each child is important. I have also found that listening to the parent (or primary caregiver) and taking their wishes into account are important, as they know their child the best and can advise on the best approach to getting the study done. In addition, they can assist in the study, which often makes the examination more comfortable for the child. Patience is key and making the activity into a game can be helpful for any child, but the parent will often know what works best for his or her child. If the test is a non-emergent, scheduled exam, the parent can plan and bring materials that they know make their child feel comfortable. They can also talk to their child about what will happen in the study beforehand, if appropriate.
Pediatric specialists have a special interest and extra training in their field to provide care for children, including those with all types of special needs, but it is a team effort with the parent/family to do what is in the child’s best interest.
Contributed by Dr. Sunny Pitt and edited by Michelle Gramke, (ADV TECH_US).