12 Things I’ve Learned On Pediatric Radiology

1.  Stupid Thymus Ruins Everything. At least, it ruins everything that I already knew about adult x-rays – which was already largely limited to “where’s the air”, “can I use the word ‘hazy’ to describe this”, and “no evidence of cardiomegaly”

But NOT WITH KIDS. With kids, I’ve learned the correct answer to even simple stuff like “is that cardiomegaly?” is No. No, it’s not. It’s probably just a dumb thymus.  (Except for the cases where it totally IS cardiomegaly, in which case it will look exactly the same.)

Goddamn it, thymus, MOVE. You are in a highly inconvenient location.

2.  When In Doubt, The Answer is “Moderate”. Lymphadenopathy in the pelvis? Sure, I see it – it’s ‘moderate’. Quality of the fibrosis in the portal tract? Moderate. Suspiciousness of that periosteal lesion? MODERATE.

i tried and therefore no one should criticize me

(I mean, not really-  if they’re bothering to ask you, that means the most correct answer is either “very subtle” or “OH MY GOD” – but better to err on the side of “lacks experience” than “is not able to discern basic anatomical structures”.)

3.  Radiologists are geniuses. Every time I start feeling confident about my pattern recognition or image-reading skills (“I could totally sit in a cushy chair and read images all day! This is the best!”), I end up in one of their oral boards review sessions watching them all get grilled on isotopes, ochem diagrams, and physics.

I bet I would’ve loved radiology if I were born 50 years ago when everything was just plain films. Or if I had gone to medical school straight out of high school, before taking so many college pre-reqs.  But I didn’t, so now I’m old and cynical and my general attitude about studying “converging collimeters” in radionucleide scans is stuck somewhere between “THOSE WORDS AREN’T REAL” and “YOU CAN’T MAKE ME.”

4.  Sitting in the dark all day is dangerously relaxing.  My Red Bull consumption is nearing an all-time high, which is sort of disconcerting, since this rotation is basically 5 hours a day, 5 days a week. (I’ve lost my edge! I’ve gone soft.)

5.  Reading a radiograph: The “helpfully point out structures” approach that worked so damned well with the attendings last year does not, somehow, impress the radiologists. (“And what do you think of the vasculature?” “Well, that right there is the IVC. And, uh… it is.. not enlarged. So… it is looking good. … or possibly not good? … Hey, look – it’s patent!”)

yes thank you for your input

6-12.  Fact dump: The newborn liver should always be less lucent than the heart – free air would make it brighter. Ovarian torsion is super difficult to rule in or out with imaging alone. Current wisdom is that “shaken” baby syndrome actually involves impact. The bone equivalent of “hazy” (in the lungs) is “broad transitional zone” and it signifies diffuse disease characteristic of malignancy.

Bone ages are fun to determine, but many radiologists believe the “11 year old” and “12 year old” male standards should be switched, the standard deviations are broad and not, in fact, actually standardized, and it’s all based on cohort data from like 50 years ago.

If the neonate’s ossification centers are visible, it was likely a full-term child, because those come in at 42 +/- 2 weeks. Germinal matrix hemorrhage is echogenicity seen anterior to the caudothalamic groove on ultrasound, as opposed to the echogenic choroid plexus posteriorly.

… best rotation ever.

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3 thoughts on “12 Things I’ve Learned On Pediatric Radiology

  1. I’m going to read this again, top to bottom, to process it all, this time thoroughly. Oh wow, that really doesn’t sound fun at all. I always wondered what the fuss was about radiology. It’s just x rays mostly etc. Now….. yergh.. 😮

  2. This was my ‘THOSE WORDS AREN’T REAL’ moment: “Germinal matrix hemorrhage is echogenicity seen anterior to the caudothalamic groove on ultrasound, as opposed to the echogenic choroid plexus posteriorly.”
    . . . Obviously still living up the chill pre-clerk life.

  3. Oh my goodness, I am so happy I found your blog (who knew that WordPress recommendations would be helpful?) I’m going into Radiology and this post made me laugh so hard! It’s nice to see a fresh perspective from someone else who blogs about med school.

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