Marianne Matthews

I was 5, and I had pneumonia. That meant no rushing downstairs at 6 am to see what was under the tree, no delicious desserts, no playing in the snow. I was confined to bed while my three siblings overdosed on candy canes and got wired unwrapping presents. That year, it was like Christmas never came. Until my grandmother arrived at my bedside with a brand-new box of Crayolas—it was the jumbo 64-color pack!

It’s the holiday season once again—the season of cheer and children. But while all of us are celebrating, hundreds of thousands of children nationwide are struggling with cancer, scoliosis, multiple sclerosis, and diseases yet to be diagnosed. It seems appropriate at this time of year to take stock of just what the medical imaging community is doing to ensure the best possible care for pediatric patients.

Good things are happening for small-packaged patients. Manufacturers are doing their part to take the edge off of imaging exams for kids. They’ve developed all kinds of devices to divert a child’s attention away from the noise and closed-in feeling of MRIs, including specially designed video goggles that allow kids to focus on cartoons or a spectacular light show during an exam.

But what about providers? The Cincinnati Hospital Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati’s Imaging Research Center is a shining example of a team dedicated to the pediatric patient. They’re working hard to avoid unnecessary sedation, reduce radiation dosages, diagnose complex cases with advanced imaging techniques, and conduct breakthrough research on everything from the use of CT scanners to aid in early detection of cystic fibrosis to the use of MRI for sleep disorders. (Read more about the Cincinnati Children’s team in our January issue.)

And at least one imaging center out there is building a reputation as a quality provider specifically in the pediatric niche. It’s called Pediatric Diagnostic Imaging (PDI), located in Milwaukee, and I refer to it as “the little imaging center that could.” Founder Robert Wells, MD, a pediatric radiologist, launched the concept—one of the few freestanding, nonhospital-affiliated, pediatric-focused imaging centers in the United States—some 2 years ago. Experienced staff members provide CT, MR, ultrasound, fluoroscopy, and digital radiography in a noninstitutional setting that makes kids feel comfortable—a gift to both children and parents alike.

PDI is focused on low-dose radiation, safe sedation, and quick, accurate report responses to ease the minds of worried parents. The group is in such demand—and is making such a difference—that it plans to open a second center in the near future that, hopefully, will include nuclear medicine.

Now, if I were Santa and planned to give something to a seriously ill child in need of testing this year, I’d take that child straight to It’s an interactive program that allows children to take a closer look at tests like x-rays, MRIs, and CT scans. Kids explore the machines, hear actual sounds, see real images produced from these tests, and learn how they can prepare for procedures.

Produced by a group of experts from pediatric health care, technology, and entertainment, the site is designed to educate, entertain, and inspire seriously ill children. Starlight’s “Radiology Center” comes to life with animated, talking, totally cute characters—April needs an MRI, Kyle’s there for a chest x-ray, and Justin awaits a CT of the stomach. Starlight’s Web site is colorful, creative, clever. The perfect present! And let’s face it; a box of Crayolas just won’t cut it anymore.

My Santa hat is off to all those people and organizations that focus their medical imaging gifts on the littlest patients of all. They need you in a big way. Happy holidays.

Marianne Matthews, editor