Magnets may seem magical — they help store data in computers, they power speakers in your stereo, and they hold up all of those important drawings on your fridge. More importantly, they save lives when they’re used in medical tools like magnetic resonance imaging scans — or MRIs.
MRIs are scans that use a magnetic field, radio waves, and a computer to create detailed images of the inside of your child’s body. They allow physicians to safely diagnose and treat illnesses or injuries that would otherwise be impossible to see.
By using images created by an MRI, your child’s physician can understand exactly what’s going on inside their body so they can get the treatment they need.
What happens during an MRI scan?
It can be helpful for you and your child to know exactly what’s going to happen during their MRI scan. During their MRI scan, the following steps will occur:
- A child life specialist or radiology nurse will meet with you and your child to help explain the procedure in a way your child can understand, show you pictures of the camera and room the procedure will occur in, and help your child develop a positive coping plan.
- One adult will be allowed to stay with your child. If you’re pregnant, however, you will be unable to stay in during the MRI scan. If you’re planning on bringing other children with you, make sure you have one adult to stay in the waiting area with them.
- Because MRI uses a magnetic field to take pictures, no metal is allowed into the MRI room. For this reason, anyone who plans to go into the room must change into hospital scrubs and be screened by our staff to make sure each person is safe to go into the MRI scan room. We have lockers for your personal items, clothes, jewelry, and electronics.
- A radiology tech will bring you and your child into the MRI room. The radiology tech will help get your child get comfortable on the MRI bed. Specific positioning will be needed for each exam, and a seat belt will be placed across their body.
- Your child can choose a movie to watch, which they will be able to see their movie through a mirror. There will be headphones for your child to wear in order to hear their movie and the tech who is taking their pictures
- The bed will move into the MRI camera until pictures are done, which usually takes 45 to 60 minutes. During this time, your child will need to hold their body still.
What Happens During An MRI Scan With Contrast?
Sometimes, your child’s physician will use a liquid called contrast to improve the pictures that are taken by the MRI.
If your child’s MRI is scheduled with contrast, they will get an intravenous line (IV) into their hand or arm prior to their MRI. The IV will be placed by a radiology nurse (RN) in a procedure room, where there is a double chair that allows extra room for you to sit next to them.
Once you and your child are in a comfortable position, the RN will begin the IV placement process. Your child may feel a slight prick where the IV is inserted.
Some MRI scans may also be scheduled with contrast for your child to drink, and there are some flavor choices are available for them to choose from.
A tech will come in the MRI room towards the end of their scan to inject the contrast through their IV. It will not hurt. The radiology tech will take the IV out when they are finished with the MRI.
How Can I Prepare And Support My Child For Their MRI Scan?
It’s normal for your child to feel anxious before an MRI scan. However, there are ways to help them feel safe and comfortable during this painless and noninvasive procedure, such as:
- Using developmentally appropriate words to explain to your child what will happen, such as telling them there will be loud knocking noises that help take their picture
- Having your child practice holding still at home and explaining that small wiggles can make their picture blurry
- Bring a non-metal comforting item, such as a blanket or stuffed animal, for the child to have with them during their scan
- Participating in One Voice, which is an initiative to promote a calming environment by limiting the number of voices in the room so your child knows who to focus on, such as a parent or procedural staff professional
- Displaying a calm demeanor — your child picks up on your anxiety and often mirrors it
- Meet with one of our child life specialists — experts who can explain the procedure in child-friendly terms, and help you and your child understand what will happen at every stage of the MRI.
What To Do Next
Your child will need an order from a provider to schedule a radiology procedure. Once the order is placed, call 402-955-6799 to schedule the procedure.
For Referring Providers
The Physicians’ Priority Line is your 24-hour link to pediatric specialists at Children’s for referrals, emergency and urgent consults, physician-to-physician consults, admissions, and transport services. Call 855-850-KIDS (5437).
Learn more about referring patients.