Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive, usually painless imaging examination that allows a physician to see what is happening inside your child's body. Unlike X-rays that use radiation, the MRI scanner uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed pictures of internal body structures, including bones, organs, and soft tissues of the head, heart, chest, abdomen, pelvis, spine and extremities.
Preparing For Your Child's MRI Scan
Your child may be asked to wear a gown or may be allowed to wear their own clothing provided it is loose-fitting and has no metal fasteners. All jewelry, watches, hair accessories, glasses and other metallic objects will need to be removed before the examination as well. Parents are often invited to stay in the MRI magnet room with their child. If this is the case, parents will need to remove all metallic objects as well.
Unless otherwise notified by your child's doctor or a member of the radiology department staff, your child may follow their regular daily routine. If any special preparations are necessary they may include keeping your child from eating or drinking for a certain amount of time prior to the exam, or waking your child up early the morning of the exam to help him or her sleep more easily during the exam.
Some MRI examinations may require the patient to receive a contrast-agent into the bloodstream; in which case an IV will be started prior to the exam. The radiologist should know if your child has any allergies, serious health problems and surgeries your child may have undergone. Some conditions, such as kidney disease and sickle cell anemia, may prevent your child from having an MRI with contrast material. The radiologist should also know if anyone in the MRI suite (patient or parent) has any implant made partially or wholly of iron or steel (e.g. a pacemaker, aneurysm clips, cochlear implants, etc.). If you have any questions or concerns please mention them to the technologist prior to beginning the study.
What You And Your Child Can Expect To Experience
The MRI scan itself will take between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on the part of the body being scanned. Your schedule should allow for additional time for parking, registration and exam instructions.
When it's time for your child's exam, the MRI technologist will lie your child down as comfortably as possible on a sliding table with his or her head in a padded plastic cradle or on a pillow. The sliding table will be moved into a tube, which is open on each end. The technologist will be able to communicate with your child during the exam.
During the scan, the MRI equipment makes knocking sounds; think of the knocks as clicks from very big camera. Earplugs are available for your child to help minimize the noise. Headphones, designed for listening to music, are also available for this purpose. Patients are welcome to bring in their own CD music for use during the exam. In certain examinations, video goggle systems are available to be used allowing your child to watch popular movies during the MRI; in some cases these systems can help avoid sedation. Even though it’s noisy, the MRI is painless. The only thing your child must do is hold very still for the exam. Just like a camera, if the person you are taking a picture of moves, the picture comes out blurry; the same holds true for an MRI.
In the event moderate sedation is necessary to complete your child's exam, typically in children younger than 8 years of age, one of our pediatric radiologists or a pediatric sedation nurse practitioner will supervise the administration of the sedative and monitor your child until they awaken following the exam. General anesthesia supervision and monitoring service, should this be required, is provided by a pediatric anesthesiologist.
For more information on Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), please select one of the MRI Information Pamphlets provided from the American College of Radiology (ACR) and Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) below: