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To put patient Ellison Snuggs of Kosciusko at ease, CT technologist Madilynn Tarver let her place her baby doll in the scanner.
To put patient Ellison Snuggs of Kosciusko at ease, CT technologist Madilynn Tarver let her place her baby doll in the scanner.
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Scan-tastic: Pediatric imaging at Children’s of Mississippi makes CTs and MRIs child-friendly

Published on Friday, June 11, 2021

By: Annie Oeth, aoeth@umc.edu

Note: This article originally appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of Under the Rainbow, the semi-annual magazine for Children's of Mississippi.

Ellison Snuggs traveled through a giant sandcastle, then took her baby doll on a similar scan-tastic journey.

The 6-year-old kindergartner had back pain. When her pediatrician suspected a kidney stone, Ellison was referred to Children’s of Mississippi for a CT scan inside the new pediatric imaging center in the children’s hospital’s new Kathy and Joe Sanderson Tower.

“We didn’t expect a sandcastle,” said her mom, Kasey Snuggs of Kosciusko, who was watching the CT from a control room space nearby. “This has been great for her!”

The Donna and Jim Barksdale Imaging Center team hears that a lot. The new center, with its MRI scanners that look like a lighthouse and a pirate ship and ultrasound rooms with ceilings that change from blue to pink to green, wows children and parents who visit for the first time. 

Child life specialist Madeline Wilson talks with patient Bethany Jackson of Woodville. Calming children as young as toddlers like Bethany reduces the need for sedation in imaging. With her are CT technologists Madilynn Tarver, left, and Amber Jelen.
Child life specialist Madeline Wilson talks with patient Bethany Jackson of Woodville. Calming children as young as toddlers like Bethany reduces the need for sedation in imaging. With her are CT technologists Madilynn Tarver, left, and Amber Jelen.

A first for families

Opened Nov. 2, the first day of patient care for the Sanderson Tower, the center is a first for Mississippi families. Prior to the center’s opening, children received CT and MRI scans where adults did, at the basement level of University Hospital at UMMC.

Child life specialist Wilson has a bag of books, stickers and more to calm, entertain and distract patients to lessen the need for sedation in imaging.
Child life specialist Wilson has a bag of books, stickers and more to calm, entertain and distract patients to lessen the need for sedation in imaging.

“Having an imaging clinic that is designed for children makes it less likely that a child will need sedation during an MRI or CT scan,” said Ashley Jones Burns, imaging director for the University of Mississippi Medical Center. “The pediatric imaging center is in the children’s hospital, which is more convenient for both inpatients and the clinics. We want imaging to be an easy, pleasant experience for children and their parents.”

The three-dimensional wraps that make these scanners more child-friendly were the results of gifts from Children’s of Mississippi supporters. Heritage Properties’ donations, gifts made through the annual Mississippi Miracles Radiothon, and a donation from Dr. Edward and Mrs. Emily Green in honor of their son, Edward “Douglas” Green and the UMMC staff paid for the wraps, priced at about $25,000 each.

Sedation is sometimes needed in imaging if a child has anxiety over the noise or enclosed spaces involved in an MRI or cannot be still long enough for the scan to be completed.

Patient Cooper Burk of Flora gets an X-ray from radiologic technologist Kelsey Wiggers at the new pediatric imaging center in the Kathy and Joe Sanderson Tower at Children's of Mississippi.
Patient Cooper Burk of Flora gets an X-ray from radiologic technologist Kelsey Wiggers at the new pediatric imaging center in the Kathy and Joe Sanderson Tower at Children's of Mississippi.

Less need for sedation

To make the need for sedation less frequent, the pediatric imaging center has scanners that are wrapped in keeping with a fun beach theme that’s a salute to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The center has child life specialist Madeline Wilson. Armed with a pink tote bag full of stickers, storybooks and lip balm, Wilson works with children to make imaging an anxiety-free experience. 

 Ironman and a model MRI machine can help children understand what will happen when they get a scan.
Ironman and a model MRI machine can help children understand what will happen when they get a scan.

“We work with patients to see if they want to try to get their imaging without sedation, and we explain to them what’s going to happen, so they have less anxiety,” she said. 

Ironman, Barbie and a wooden MRI model help children understand. The doll-sized MRI machine slides just like its real counterpart.

If a child will need sedation, Wilson lets them prepare for it by placing stickers on their anesthesia masks and scenting them with fruity lip balm.

"This imaging center is designed for children, so they’re already less anxious about procedures there because the machines look fun,” she said. “If children do need sedation, we work to make that experience anxiety-free, too.”

Resource for state’s doctors

Since the opening of the pediatric imaging center, thousands of scans have been performed, and the center is proving to be a resource to medical providers in the Jackson metro area and beyond.

 Sonographer Leslie Webb gives patient Da'Quan Griffin of Lexington an ultrasound.
Sonographer Leslie Webb gives patient Da'Quan Griffin of Lexington an ultrasound.

“Sending a family for imaging is usually a stressful time,” said Dr. Adam Adcock, a pediatrician with The Children’s Clinic in Flowood. “The majority of the time, the child is acutely sick or has an injury, and time is of the essence.”

Having an imaging center just for children means that more scanners are available for pediatric patients since they aren’t also needed for adult patients, Adcock said. “We are able to expedite the process.”

Knowing that Children’s of Mississippi has an imaging center that is designed around the needs of children is reassuring for parents and for pediatricians, Adcock said. 

“What an encouraging thing it is to be able to tell the family when we send them to do their imaging at the Sanderson Tower at Children’s of Mississippi that it will be done at an imaging center dedicated to kids. The staff and the environment cater to kids and their families.”