Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a procedure that uses a large magnet, radio waves, and a computer to create detailed images of organs and tissues in the body. It’s used to diagnose problems in many areas of the body.
There are different types of MRI machines. Some look like narrow tunnels. Others are more open and may be a choice for children who can’t handle small, confined spaces. The machine creates a strong magnetic field, which works with radio waves to change the position of the body’s hydrogen atoms. As they go back into proper position, they send out signals. A computer receives the signals and converts them into images of the body. This image appears on a computer screen.
A child may need an MRI for many reasons, such as to find:
Your child’s healthcare provider may have other reasons to order an MRI.
You can help your child by preparing him or her in advance. Many hospitals have people trained in helping children cope with their medical care or hospital experience. These people are often called child life specialists. Check with your child’s healthcare provider to see if child life programs or other similar services are available for your child. You can also do certain things to help your child get ready for a test. How best to do this depends on your child’s needs. Start with the tips below:
Tell the healthcare provider if your child:
The test takes about 30 to 60 minutes. Some may take longer. You may be able to stay with your child in the MRI room. Or you may be asked to wait in another area during the test.
An MRI scan is done by a radiology technologist. A radiologist is on call in case of problems. This is a doctor trained to use MRI or other imaging methods to test or treat patients.
During the procedure:
Once the test is finished, the table will slide out of the scanner. If your child received medicine to relax or sleep, he or she will be watched until the medicine wears off and he or she is awake again. If an IV was inserted, it will be taken out after the test is over and your child is awake.
If no sedation was used, your child can go back to normal activities and diet right away, unless the healthcare provider says otherwise. Contrast dye should pass through your child’s body in about 24 hours. Your child may need to drink more water during this time.
If your child had sedation, he or she may feel sleepy for a while. This should go away in a few hours or a day.
Your child’s healthcare provider will talk with you about the results of the MRI, and let you know if other tests are needed.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure for your child make sure you know: