Superhero vision at Children’s South: a look at Alabama’s low-dose radiation imaging center

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Meet the “Superheroes” – staff at the Children’s South Pediatric Imaging Center. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Perhaps it was a tumble off the monkey bars. Or, maybe a scan is needed for diagnostic purposes or to monitor treatment. Whatever the case, you and your child are headed to Children’s South Pediatric Imaging Center, off Interstate-459 and Acton Road. Here’s why you can breathe easy.

Kid-Friendly Environment

If your child has the jitters (and, okay, maybe you do, too), don’t worry. The staff, nurses and technologists at Children’s South Pediatric Imaging Center are highly trained to work with children, said Jackie Canter, who manages the center. After all, Children’s South is an outpatient facility of Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham, one of the best pediatric medical centers in the nation.

From the décor to the mini mock CT scanner where children can practice what their procedure will be like – Children’s South Pediatric Imaging Center (PIC) is designed with children and their unique medical needs in mind. And over at the MRI machine, Children’s staff will pop in your child’s favorite DVD for the duration of the scan. Even the soothing color scheme is designed to impart a sense of calm.

MRI machine complete with television and a kid friendly room. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Of course, the uncanny ability to put you and your child at ease is only one of the team’s superhero powers. The other is low-dose imaging.

Special Equipment and Protocols

Children’s PIC is Central Alabama’s  imaging department devoted exclusively to the needs of children.

The PIC has specialized pediatric equipment, as well as pediatric protocols in place for every age from infants to 18-year-olds. This ensures pediatric patients receive the lowest possible dose of radiation for their age and body type, while still giving doctors a clear picture of what they need to see. Superhero vision indeed!

“At other imaging facilities, where the protocols are designed for adults, they might not make the necessary adjustments for a child,” Canter said.

“Then, when a scan is ready, a pediatric radiologist, not a general radiologist, interprets the results. That specialty knowledge and training sets the Pediatric Imaging Center apart,” Canter added.

The Lower the Better

Radiation is all around us, from the sun on our skin to the air we breathe. In fact, we each encounter about 3 mSv (millisieverts) of radiation from natural sources every year, according to the American Cancer Society.

Cosmic rays are all round us, even at the soccer game. Photo via Children’s of Alabama’s Instagram

When we travel by airplane, simply being at a higher altitude increases our exposure to cosmic rays. The CDC says a flight across the United States rings in at 0.035 mSv.

Flying high = 0.035 mSv. Photo by Terri Robertson

Medical imaging exposes us to radiation, too, sometimes amounting to multiple years’ worth depending on the type. That’s okay because when we truly need these exams, the benefits outweigh the risks.

“When it comes to children and medical imaging, Canter said, “you want them to receive the lowest dose possible. That’s primarily because they have longer lifespans ahead of them.”

Since effects of radiation can take many years to develop, by nature, children have more time ahead of them for potential side effects to appear. That means low-dose medical imaging is paramount for pediatric patients. At Children’s South Pediatric Imaging Center, that’s exactly what the superhero team delivers.

Children’s South Pediatric Imaging Center staff. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Conveniently Located

Unlike a superhero lair, Children’s South Pediatric Imaging Center is easy to find. It’s located just off Interstate-459 and Acton Road at 1940 Elmer J. Bissell Rd, Birmingham, AL 35243. And check out all the imaging services Children’s offers.


  • Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.