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How To Prepare A Child For An MRI Scan

A patient meets with her providers.

MRI machines are useful tools that are utilized by providers on a daily basis. An MRI uses magnets, invisible radio waves and computers to take detailed pictures of the inside of the body. In doing so, a provider can see bones, tendons, blood vessels, organs and soft tissues. This can be extremely helpful for a variety of reasons. 

Children and adults with all types of diagnoses can benefit from an MRI scan. People with scoliosis, epilepsy, brain injuries, hip abnormalities, spinal cord injuries and tumors use MRIs to see what the naked eye can’t. That being said, an MRI machine can be intimidating. It looks like a large tunnel with a long table that slides in and out. Because of this, it is normal for kids to be nervous or scared. 

Parents And Providers Work Together To Ease A Child’s Anxiety 

At Gillette, the providers and staff are here to help you prepare your child for an MRI. A good place to start is to have a conversation explaining why this scan is necessary. Have your provider answer any questions to help put their mind at ease. Remember, an MRI is safe for children of any age and it doesn’t hurt at all. It is important that both parents and children remind themselves of that. 

Another great way to prepare your child for an MRI is to help them practice lying still. Encourage them to take deep breaths. Remind them that it will be okay and that an MRI scan is only for a set amount of time. Depending on the situation, it can last anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes. It is all planned according to the body part that needs testing. 

In continuing to prepare your child for an MRI, help your child take out all body piercings, jewelry and hair accessories. Since an MRI machine uses powerful magnets, it is important to have anything that uses metal removed. Tell your provider if your child has metal inside their body, like a baclofen pump, vagus nerve stimulator, pins, rods or dental implants.  

Gillette patients play before a doctor's appointment.

Planning Ahead Can Reduce Day Of Nerves 

Preparing your child for an MRI scan also means using tools that will help them understand what they will feel and hear. Ask your provider for any tools Gillette has available. Otherwise, some parents go online and search for sound clips. Normalizing the sound of the machine is a good way to get ahead of any anxiety they might experience. 

In some cases, it is possible for your child to be sedated during the MRI scan. However, there are rules around this. Females who are 12 and older must have a urine or blood pregnancy test. Please note that mothers who are expecting a child are not allowed to be in the room when the MRI scan is in progress.

When sedation is necessary, though, we keep it simple. Our advanced imaging services are located right next to our surgery suites. This makes it easy to monitor your child during the MRI test. Our whole goal is to make the MRI environment as seamless as possible. We want to eliminate stress and anxiety in any way we can. 

If a parent is not pregnant, it is okay to be in the room and you can be right next to your child the entire time. Packing a comfort item like your child’s favorite stuffed animal is another way to ease any worries. If there is no metal in it, they may even be able to hold it during the MRI scan.  

Providing Expert Care When You Need It Most 

At Gillette, you’ll work with a team that specializes in providing MRI for children and teens who have disabilities. You’ll have access to a child-friendly atmosphere and if needed, types of sedation to make MRI exams a smooth experience. 

We collaborate with St. Paul Radiology to provide an expert reading of pediatric imaging studies. St. Paul Radiology is nationally known for its specialized expertise in interpreting radiological studies of children. Put your trust in providers that care.