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Information for children

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses magnetic fields to produce detailed images of the inside of the body. The scanner consists of a short cylinder that is open at both ends. As part of the scan a soft flexible blanket or in some cases, a more rigid frame, is placed over or around the body part being imaged.

During the MRI scan radiographers will encourage your child to stay as still as possible. The scanner will make a continuous loud tapping noise throughout the scan. Hearing protection needs to be worn by everyone inside the MRI scanner room.

Depending on the type of scan your child is having they may have an opportunity to listen to music or a story during the scan. In some scanners it is also possible for your child to watch videos inside the scanner. An MRI examination is made up of several individual scans that are each usually only a few minutes long. Depending upon the clinical requirements the total examination can be anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes.

Before your child's MRI

Children can usually have a parent or carer with them for the duration of the scan. Anyone who stays in the MRI room will need to complete a questionnaire about their health and medical history.

You will be sent safety questionnaires regarding your child’s health and medical history, and the same questionnaire for any accompanying adult. Consider the answers for your child, and also for the accompanying adult who would like to stay with them.

If you answer yes to any of the questions you should call the MRI department as soon as you can. This does not necessarily mean that you cannot have a scan, or accompany your child.

If your baby is having an MRI, and after contacting the department you are unable to stay in the MRI room for the scan, please ensure another relative or carer is available to accompany your baby.

We have a DVD for children to watch before the scan, details of the link and password will be available with the appointment letter.

Your child may need to have an injection of a contrast dye during the scan. This is given through a small plastic tube which is placed in a vein in the arm or back of the hand. If this is required you will be asked to attend the paediatric clinic one hour before your scan.

Healthcare play specialist

A member of the play team and child with lego scanner

You and your child will have the opportunity to be supported by our Healthcare Play Specialist. Our team is lucky enough to include a Healthcare Play Specialist who supports children and young people between 3-16 years of age.

Therapeutic play is used to inform them about the scan process and any sedation required using preparation and distraction techniques. This helps achieve successful scan procedures. Where extra support is required support plans and assessments can be used to help reduce anxiety, resulting in a more positive experience.

One of our inflatable MRI scanners - Funded by ACT

Examples of support plans include a pre scan visit, listening to a DVD of scanner sounds, seeing pictures of the scanner, or using the Inflatable MR scanner. Children can practice on the inflatable scanner either themselves or with a teddy or doll.

After the scan children can have a MRI Certificate and can choose a small treat.

Scans for neonates

For babies up to 4 months a ‘feed and wrap’ is a technique encouraged instead of sedation or general anesthesia. Generally, babies tend to fall asleep after a feed, so we try and scan them while asleep.

Try to keep your baby awake on the journey to hospital to make it easier for them to fall asleep at the time of their scan appointment. We also advise you to keep your baby slightly hungry and due for a feed just before the appointment.

Your baby should wear clothes without zips or metal poppers for the scan, otherwise they will need to be changed into a gown. If your child requires an injection of contrast as part of the MRI scan, we will insert a cannula into a vein in the pediatric clinic or ward before the appointment.

On arrival one of our team will go through the safety questionnaire with you to ensure your baby can have the scan safely, and to ensure you are safe to accompany them.

You will need to leave metallic objects such as jewellery, watches, keys, pens, mobile phones in the lockers outside the scanner room. The scanner will make loud tapping sounds throughout the scan. Your baby will be given ear protection prior to them falling asleep so as not to wake them once they are lying on the scanner bed.

We will ask you to feed your baby and let them fall into a natural sleep in a quiet room. If you are not breastfeeding please bring formula milk. When your baby is in a deep sleep we will transfer them onto the MRI scanner. It is important that your baby is in a deep sleep before we start the examination so that the loud noises do not wake them.

To create good images your baby will need to remain still for the duration of the MRI scan. An accompanying adult is required to stay with the baby during the scan.

If the feed and wrap technique is not successful an appointment for sedation or general anesthetic may be needed. It is not possible to schedule this on the day, instead a further appointment will be arranged, and an appointment letter sent to you.

Sedation for young children

Young children may require sedation for their MRI scan if they are unable to keep still for the duration of the scan or cannot tolerate the loud noises. This is often discussed with the doctor requesting the MRI scan. Depending on the child’s age sedation will be general anaesthetic or oral sedation. The child will be asked to attend a pre-assessment visit before the MRI scan if sedation is booked.

Oral sedation

Children aged 4 months and older who require oral sedation will attend the Children’s Ward or the MRIS Unit for sedation. You will be advised where to attend by the MRI Department. Your child should not be given water or food before the sedation is given. You will be contacted by the children’s day ward prior to the MRI scan to advise how long to avoid giving food and drink before the appointment.

Your child will be given sedation one hour before the scan. Nursing and MRI staff work together on the day to ensure the scanner is available at the required time. Your child will need hearing protection for the scan, this will be given to them prior to them falling asleep. When your child is asleep they will be transferred to the MRI Unit for scanning.

After the scan your child will remain in the day ward or MRIS Unit to recover from the sedation. After your child has recovered from the effects of the sedation, you will be told that you can go home.

General anaesthetic

If your child requires a general anaesthetic for their MRI scan this will have been discussed with you by the referring doctor.

On the day your child will be admitted to the paediatric day ward. You will be asked to arrive at the ward at 7:00AM for a morning scan or 11:30AM for an afternoon scan. We are unable to give definite appointment times as this will be decided only after a review by the consultant anaesthetist on the day.

Your child will be collected from the ward and taken to the MRI Unit where the general anaesthetic will be administered. An accompanying adult will be able to remain with their child in the anaesthetic room but will not be able to remain for the MRI scan.

The paediatric recovery nurses will contact the parents once the child is awake, the child will return to the paediatric day ward for further recovery before going home.

After the scan

An MRI scan is usually carried out as an outpatient procedure. For babies and children who receive sedation, monitoring after the scan may take several hours but does not usually result in an overnight stay in hospital.