700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Helping Children (and Parents) Prepare for an MRI

Mar 25, 2021
MRI

The job of a child life specialist includes educating patients about diagnoses and preparing them for upcoming procedures, while also assisting them in developing their coping skills. Child Life services can look different depending upon what area of the hospital a specialist covers. Since the fall of 2014, radiology child life specialists have been supporting patients with the use of an MRI simulator which teaches patients more about completing an MRI without sedation.

The mock scanner recreates the MRI experience, and allows children to feel more comfortable with something that is unfamiliar to them. The MRI simulator looks like the real scanner, but does not require a magnetic field or take any images. Patients can lie on the bed and travel into the MRI tunnel and see the lights and fans inside, just like the real MRI machine. The mock scanner also simulates the loud sounds that a real MRI makes, so kids will know what to expect when they arrive for their actual scan.

Practicing with the MRI simulator helps a child understand what their role will be during the scan: to lie still. It also allows the child life specialist to determine what concerns or misconceptions a patient might have. The MRI simulator experience can help children feel more in control and may reduce their overall anxiety about having the MRI.

At Nationwide Children’s Hospital, most children under the age of seven are scheduled for an MRI with sedation. Since the implementation of the MRI simulator, many patients as young as five years of age have been successful in completing their MRI without anesthesia.

Referrals for simulator candidates are received from providers, clinic staff, pre-admission testing nurses, schedulers, inpatient child life specialists, or even from parents directly. Simulator sessions can be completed prior to a patient’s scheduled MRI appointment or the day of a non-sedated or sedated visit.

We also offer reserved spots for simulator sessions on Monday and Wednesday afternoons, typically for patients who have a future sedated appointment already scheduled. During these Monday and Wednesday visits there is no anesthesia option. Patients begin their visit by participating in a simulator session, and if they cope well, they transition directly to the MRI area to complete their actual scan. If the patient has a future sedated scan scheduled, this appointment is kept until there has been confirmation the child was able to complete their MRI during their simulator visit. Originally scheduled, non-sedated patients who are unable to complete their scan on this day would then need to reschedule their appointment for a future date with anesthesia.

There are a number of long term benefits for patients who learn to complete a scan without sedation:

  • Reduces the risks associated with anesthesia
  • Lowers costs for families as they are not utilizing anesthesia
  • Shortens wait time for an appointment when scheduling an MRI without anesthesia
  • Shortens visits on the day of scan, as no additional time for sedation or recovery is needed

For more information or if you have questions, contact our radiology child life specialists at (614) 722-9428 or email MRIsimulatorchildlife@NationwideChildrens.org.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.