So your child needs an MRI? Here are some things you should know prior to their scan.
MRI scans are non invasive and are virtually painless. The only downside to MRI scans is the tight space and loud noises. If a patient suffers from claustrophobia or anxiety, it can make an MRI scan very stressful. For these types of patients, sedation medication is used. However, there are risks that come with sedation and it should be avoided if necessary.
Depending on the imaging center and your child’s age, sedation may be required. If the imaging center provides music it may be an option for your child to not be sedated. Sedation is required for the sake of the image quality and to eliminate the need of rescans. MRI scans can take anywhere from twenty minutes to over an hour depending on what needs to be scanned. It is important that you ensure that your child wears comfortable clothes to their scan and are free of any metals or objects that can interfere with the procedure.
It is important to explain to your child in an age appropriate way what an MRI scan is and what their role in it is. It is especially important to explain why they need to stay still during the procedure to avoid re-scans. Children’s hospitals and some imaging centers have protocols to make children feel more safe for exams and often do a good job at explaining the nature of the procedure as well.
Normally the imaging facility will allow a parent to stand next to their child while they are being scanned to help comfort them. During this time you can hold your child’s hand and remind them to stay calm and still.
Depending on the scan, your child may be required to drink or be injected with contrast dye. If dye is administered it is important not to eat prior to the exam. There are no side effects to the contrast dye as it naturally makes its way out of the body within 24 hours. Ensure your child drinks plenty of water post scan if contrast dye is used.
Always follow the instructions of the imaging center prior to attending your visit. Usually, eating and drinking as normal is appropriate prior to the exam, however sometimes you are instructed to not eat 4 hours prior to the exam or required to drink a certain amount of water beforehand.
Overall, an MRI scan can be a very stressful experience for your child. But you can do your best to try to help alleviate their stress by preparing them for the procedure. By educating and informing your child you can make the procedure run smoother and give them a better experience.
An example of what you can tell your child…
MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. The machine uses a large and powerful magnet to take images of your internal body parts. It is important to stay still during the procedure to ensure images are high quality and to avoid a rescan. The MRI machine is very loud but painless.