Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRI is a diagnostic imaging exam that uses a large magnet, radio waves, and a computer to produce two and three dimensional images of the body's organs, tissues, and bones.

How does an MRI work?

An MRI is a large tube-shaped magnet that provides a strong magnetic field around your child. A radio frequency apparatus is placed over the body part that is to be imaged. MRI is often the imaging modality of choice because it does not use radiation (X-rays).

MRI is often an appropriate tool to evaluate various parts of the body and certain diseases that may not be assessed adequately with other imaging modalities.

MRIs are interpreted by a pediatric radiologist or pediatric neuroradiologist. The results are reported to your child's physician.

Is anesthesia needed?

Movement will cause the MRI pictures to be blurry. Therefore, your child must lie still during the entire MRI scan. Sedation may be required based on the type of MRI, the length of the exam and the age of the patient. The use of anesthesia will cause your child to go to sleep and remain motionless and comfortable during the exam.

Anesthesia is administered by our pediatric specific anesthesiologists. The anesthesiologist is assisted by the radiology nursing staff as well as the MRI Technologist; all of whom have many years of pediatric imaging experience.

Protocols and procedures specifically for pediatric use have been developed by our Pediatric Radiologists, which results in age appropriate care for children and the best possible images for the Radiologist.

To prepare your child for an MRI scan it is helpful to provide your child with a simple explanation as to why an MRI is needed. You may want to bring your child's favorite book, toy, or comfort object to occupy him or her during waiting times. Prior to your scheduled MRI appointment you will receive a phone call from the Radiology nurse with instructions that may include dietary restrictions. It is very important that you follow all these instructions or the scan may need to be rescheduled.

What should I expect when I bring my child for an MRI?

When you arrive a service representative at the desk will check your child and verify registration information.

We will provide a safety screening questionnaire to be completed for you child. This form will ensure that your child can be safely imaged. So that the MRI staff can provide safe patient care while undergoing anesthesia, parents do not accompany their child into the scan room.

After your questionnaire has been completed, a member of the MRI team will escort you and your child to the screening room. Your child will change into appropriate MRI safe attire. Your child's temperature, heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels will be assessed. Any child getting anesthesia will have an IV placed prior to scan.

It is important to notify the nurse of any active or recent illness, allergies or previous drug reactions. The anesthesiologist will speak with you about your child's health history and status and perform a brief physical exam to confirm that your child can be safely anesthetized. The anesthesiologist will also discuss the best anesthesia plan for your child. When it is time for your child to be scanned, parents will be escorted to the waiting area.

What happens during the MRI scan?

Once your child is asleep the MRI technologist will position your child on the scanning bed. It is necessary for the body part that will be scanned to be in the center of the scanner.

We will place ear plugs in your child's ears to protect their hearing as the MRI machine makes loud pulsing or knocking sounds. The Anesthesiologist will monitor your child throughout the entire MRI exam. Often, it is necessary to administer a contrast material by way of an IV. The contrast is needed to gather additional information during the scan.

The MRI scan itself consists of several sequences of a few minutes duration each, that collectively take anywhere from 30 to 120 minutes. The length of the scan depends on what information is required by the radiologist and your physician.

What happens after MRI?

When the MRI is complete, the anesthesiologist and the technologist will bring your child to the MRI recovery area, where he or she will continue to be monitored until discharge.

After approximately 15 to 30 minutes, the recovery room nurse will begin waking your child. Once he or she is awake, some juice or crackers may be given. When your child is ready to go home, the recovery room nurse will remove the IV and monitoring equipment. You will be given discharge instructions with contact information in case you have any questions or concerns upon leaving. Your child may still be sleepy and may be unsteady on their feet for the remainder of the day if they received anesthesia; it is important to monitor their movements.

The radiologist will review the images and create a report of the findings and diagnosis for your referring doctor. The radiologist's report will be sent to the physician who requested the exam and your child's doctor will then discuss the results with you.

It generally takes 2-3 business days for the results to be sent to the referring doctor.