MRI is a medical imaging technology used to diagnose and plan the treatment of many diseases. MRI generates detailed two-dimensional and three-dimensional images of the soft tissues of the body. These images make it much easier for doctors to distinguish between normal and abnormal tissues.

How to Prepare

An MRI receptionist will call two to three days in advance to confirm your appointment time and to give you your child’s eating instructions and your child’s arrival time. The receptionist will also begin the surgical implant screening process. If your child is being sedated for the MRI procedure, a radiology nurse will call a week before your scheduled MRI with specific eating and arrival instructions. Make sure your child follows all eating instructions the MRI nurse gives you.

You may want to watch the video at the Starlight Radiology Center [Link to http://radiology.starlight.org/index.html], created by the Starlight Children's Foundation. The "MRI check in" interactive video may be helpful for your child. This video shows the process and sounds of the MRI scanner. It also talks about the possibility of IV (intravenous—injected through a blood vessel) contrast. 

MRI Safety

The MRI scanner contains a highly magnetic field. Anyone planning to enter the MRI scan room must first walk though a metal prescreening device. Before entering the prescreening area, we will ask you to remove any items containing metal, including:

  • Belts
  • Body piercings
  • Cell phones
  • Hair clips/pins
  • Hard-sole shoes
  • Jewelry
  • Keys
  • Pagers
  • Pens
  • Pocket knives
  • Support braces
  • Suspenders
  • Tools
  • Wired undergarments with metal clasps or hooks
  • Wrist watches

There is an MRI Safe Zone around the MRI machine and it is strictly monitored for you and your child’s safety. We check for any loose metal hazards that might be attracted by the strong magnetic field.

What You Can Expect

Before the MRI

For your child’s safety, bring a list of all your child’s medications and information about any surgical implants your child may have. Your child should wear clothing without metal, such as clothing without zippers, buckles or snaps. Hospital garments or scrubs will be provided if needed. We encourage children to bring their favorite DVD to watch or CD to listen to music.

On the day of your child’s MRI procedure an anesthesiologist will discuss the sedation process with you. After the MRI procedure, your child will be monitored by a radiology registered nurse until it is safe to leave the hospital.

MRI scans are painless and do not involve any ionizing radiation. However, MRI scanners are quite loud. Your child will be offered ear plugs or headphones to reduce the noise level. An entertainment system is available for your child to watch a movie or cartoons during the MRI.

The MRI technologist will perform a thorough MRI safety screening, consisting of a patient-provided form and use of a metal detector. You or another caregiver are welcome to accompany your child into the magnet room. Most MRIs take about one hour.

During the MRI

Once your child is prepared for the MRI, he or she will be positioned on the MRI table by a pediatric-trained MRI technologist. The technologist will make sure your child is as comfortable as possible. The technologist will talk to your child before beginning each scan and ask him or her to remain very still during the scan to ensure high-quality images.

If your child is not being sedated for the procedure, you or another caregiver may be present for the entire MRI. Once the scanning begins, your child will be constantly monitored by the pediatric trained MRI technologist. Your child may be instructed to hold their breath for some cardiac and abdominal imaging.

Your child’s MRI results will be available for your referring doctor within 48 hours. Your doctor will then contact you with the results and discuss further options and treatments available for your child based on the MRI results.