Find out about scans, ultrasounds and x-rays that your baby may have.


Doctors can tell a lot from scans that give them a look inside your baby’s body. They should always explain the results of any scans to you.


The most common scan uses ultrasound waves, which create a picture of what is happening inside your baby’s body. Ultrasound does not use harmful radiation. One common use for ultrasound is to look at the structure of your baby’s brain and show whether there is bleeding or other problems. You might be able to stay with your baby while they are having an ultrasound scan.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Many neonatal units have access to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners. These scanners use a magnetic field to give very useful pictures of your baby’s internal organs. An MRI scan is painless and does not use harmful radiation. 

If your baby has an MRI scan, they will be moved to the scanner in a special incubator that keeps them safe and warm. In most hospitals, the MRI scanner is located far away from the neonatal unit. 

Your baby may need to wait for this test, until they are strong enough to make the journey. Your baby may be sedated before having the scan, to help them stay still enough for the MRI to be completed.


X-rays are commonly used to look at a baby’s chest, especially when they are on respiratory support. X-rays are also commonly used to look at a baby’s abdomen when feeds are not tolerated and a serious disorder or infection of the gut is suspected. 

As x-rays use ionising radiation, they are only used when absolutely necessary. You may need to leave the room while your baby is having an x-ray.