Pirate-Themed Scanner a Hit at NYC Hospital

The pirate-thesed CT scanner helps relax kids and parents. (Image credit: NY-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital)

A New York City children's hospital is putting the "arrr" in radiology with a new pirate-themed CT scanner.

New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital had been eyeing the General Electric machine because of its low radiation dose. But the ship-shaped scanner and a suite decorated with wavy floors and cartoon animals sealed the deal.

"Being in a hospital is a difficult experience," said Dr. Carrie Ruzal-Shapiro, the hospital's chief of pediatric radiology, explaining that tests and procedures can be scary for young kids. "To be distracted by an adventure like going out to sea and meeting a monkey or pirate kitty lets you leave the scary environment for a little bit."

MRI Anxiety Eased by Therapy Dog

The scanner, which is used to detect tumors as well as heart defects and trauma, has been up and running for two weeks, according to Ruzal-Shapiro.

"We've had excellent feedback," she said, explaining how children and even teens love the new look. "And for parents, it helps them relax, which helps the child relax. It's a nice feedback loop."

While the machine is meant for kids, Ruzal-Shapiro said the odd grown-up patient has wanted to "walk the plank" into the cutting-edge scanner.

"Even the inspector from the state was like, 'Oh, wow!'" she added.

CT Scans in Kids Linked to Leukemia, Brain Cancer Risk

The hospital had the choice between the pirate scene and an underwater world, according to Ruzal-Shapiro.

"It wasn't unanimous, but there was heavy sentiment for the pirates," she said, noting that a couple people in the department were "more fish-oriented."

But the theme came second to the scanner's low radiation dose.

"These are children who will need monitoring for a long time, so the dose can be substantial scan after scan," she said, explaining how radiation from CT scans can increase the risk of cancer later in life. "The quality of the images has been excellent for the low dose. And that, for me sitting behind the screen, is the most important thing."