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Skeletal survey

Please note that there are 2 different types of skeletal survey exams. 1 type checks the bones for injuries, the other type checks bones for diseases.

The following information covers skeletal surveys that check for injuries.

What is a skeletal survey?

A skeletal survey is an X-ray procedure where we take several pictures of your child’s bones

The examination is done in 2 parts, with a follow up scan 10 to 12 days after the first scan.

Who does the procedure?

The skeletal survey will be done by 2 radiographers.

1 radiographer will use the X-ray camera from behind a glass screen while the other radiographer helps move your child into the correct position for the pictures. A member of staff from the ward will accompany you down to the X-ray department and will stay in the room during the first procedure.

How can I prepare my child for a skeletal survey?

A doctor will explain the procedure to you before the exam and ask you to give consent for the procedure to go ahead.

It is helpful to dress your child in clothing that is easily taken off and put back on as they cannot wear clothes over the part of their body that is being imaged.

It can also be helpful to feed your child just before the examination. Please bring a dummy if your child is used to having one.

What happens during the first skeletal survey?

The radiographers will take X-ray of your child’s arms, legs, hands, feet, head, back, chest, and hips. The procedure does not hurt at all, however your child may find it uncomfortable to be held still for some images.

You will be asked to wear a protective lead apron and help the radiographer move your child into the correct positions, however you will not be allowed to do so if you are pregnant. If you are pregnant, you are still able to accompany your child to the examination, but you will have to remain with the radiographer behind the glass screen for your protection.

The whole procedure can take around 25 to 40 minutes and a minimum of 25 images will be taken.

Are there any risks?

All X-rays expose patients to low amounts of radiation. Every step will be taken to keep the amount of radiation used to a minimum.

Although a skeletal survey procedure involves several pictures being taken, the amount of radiation used is not considered high enough to be a risk to your child.

What happens after the procedure?

Once all the pictures in the first examination have been taken, your child will need to wait in the waiting area with the member of staff from their ward.

During this time, the radiographers will show the X-ray images to your child’s doctor and see if they need more images. If any images need repeating, the radiographers will call you back in to take them.

Once the doctor is happy that all of the images are good enough, we will make an appointment for your follow-up examination which will take place 10 to 12 days after the first skeletal survey.

Why does my child need more X-rays after the first skeletal survey?

Recent injuries cannot always be seen on on the first skeletal survey if the bone has not had the chance to repair itself. We will take more images 10 to 12 days later to give the bones chance to heal, which makes these injuries easier to spot.


It is very important that your child is brought for the follow up skeletal survey appointment as the examination will be incomplete without these pictures.

If your child is not brought for the follow up appointment, the doctor in charge of your child’s care will be informed.

If you are unable to make your appointment please ring 0114 271 7389 between the hours of 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday and let us know. We will arrange a time that suits you better, however the appointment has to be between the hours of 9am and 4pm, Monday to Friday, and it must be between 10 and 12 days after the date of the first examination.

How is the follow up skeletal survey different?

The follow-up skeletal survey should be quicker than the first skeletal survey as the radiographers will not take as many images. A minimum of 7 pictures will be taken this time.

Like the first skeletal survey, we will ask you to wear one of our protective lead aprons and help move your child into the correct positions, provided that you are not pregnant. Again, we will show the pictures that were taken to a doctor to check that they are good enough before the examination is completed.

Will my child need any other radiology images?

Most children will also need a CT scan of their head on the date of their first skeletal survey. The purpose of this scan is to give the doctors more information on your child’s skull and brain.

The scan only takes a couple of minutes, but it is important to settle your child as they need to be still during the scan. The CT scan does not hurt at all, and we will try to keep your child comfortable and still by wrapping them in a blanket and placing them in a padded crib. You will be able to wear a protective lead apron and stay in the scan room with your child, provided that you are not pregnant. Please bring a toy to distract your child, or a feed which they can have during the scan to help keep them still.

Like the skeletal survey, the CT scan uses radiation, but the amount that the radiographers use will be kept to a minimum and won’t cause any harm to your child.

It is unlikely that the CT scan will need to be repeated when you bring your child back for the follow up skeletal survey.

Further information

Please read our resource for more information about risks of anaesthetics.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

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Radiography Department

Sheffield Children’s Hospital

Western Bank


S10 2TH


Western Bank
S10 2TH

United Kingdom

Switchboard: 0114 271 7000

Interesting Facts

We’ve got a special MRI scanner just for teddies so children can see what it’s like before they have a scan.

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