Diseases occurring in children present problems and peculiarities that may not be seen (or even overlooked) in routine diagnostic imaging investigations designed for adult patients. A child affected with disease needs to be approached differently from an adult in the same situation. Therefore, doctors and technologists conducting investigations or providing treatment should be aware that the child is not a miniature adult and should, therefore, tailor their approach using paediatric diagnostic imaging techniques.
A magnetic resonance imaging device decorated especially for children to make them feel more at ease. (Photo E. Estrada Lobato, IAEA)
The weaknesses on the part of doctors and technologists to provide useful insights for the sick children's families are frequently caused by limited expertise in using nuclear medicine techniques in children due to scarcity of learning and training opportunities. Various technical considerations, are not often given enough attention, resulting in reduced capacities and capabilities to handle the child effectively. This perspective should always be kept in mind when radionuclides are used in both diagnostic work-up or in planned therapy since the very nature of radionuclide use demands awareness of radiation safety issues and technical proficiency to ensure quality control.
The IAEA provides learning and training opportunities focused on various technical considerations in paediatric nuclear medicine which include (but are not limited to) multidisciplinary clinical management, dosimetry, sedation and immobilization during procedures; image magnification; radioactive waste management; and radiation protection to the family. These principles are used to a great advantage in the early detection or prompt diagnosis of acquired diseases such as childhood cancer and congenital and developmental malformations which occur in infancy and childhood. The Nuclear Medicine and Diagnostic Imaging Section of the IAEA ensures that Member States will benefit from the mobilization of basic and advanced knowledge through various learning opportunities in paediatric nuclear medicine, which will help children afflicted with in-born and acquired diseases.
An ultrasound room especially decorated to be more comforting for the children undergoing diagnostic tests. (Photo: E. Estrada Lobato, IAEA)
Following successive workshops and training courses such as Principles and Practice of Nuclear Medicine and Application of Radionuclide Techniques in Paediatric Nephro-Urology Practice, countries such as Iran and Pakistan have initiated dedicated paediatric nuclear medicine services in their relevant hospitals. In addition, they have formally introduced this special area into the medical imaging training programs both at university and hospital levels.