Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, is a gentle, radiation-free way to examine children and adults for tumors, diseases, heart problems and more. This non-invasive procedure uses magnetic fields and radio waves, making it a safe way to evaluate most parts of the body.
MRIs do not usually require special physical preparation. However, if a little one is scheduled to undergo a MRI, they may feel nervous or afraid, so as a parent, you may want to take steps to prepare your child mentally. It helps to explain the entire process to your child beforehand, including letting them know which part of their body will be examined. Be honest and use simple terms like these:
The MRI machine is like a camera. It takes pictures of the inside of your body. It’s a magnet that looks like a giant donut or spaceship with a tunnel inside. You will lie flat on a table that will go inside the machine to take pictures. If contrast fluid is required, the fluid is like a highlighter that goes in the body so the doctors can see inside better.
You will be able to bring your favorite stuffed animal or blanket in with you, as long as they don’t have any metal on them because the MRI machine is one big magnet. The machine will not touch you and you won’t feel anything, but it may make lots of noises. This only means that the machine is working like it should and that the pictures are being taken. You may be able to listen to music or wear ear plugs so the machine sounds aren’t so loud. It is very important to lie still during the MRI. If you fidget, the scan will need to be started over to get good pictures. It can take a while, about 20–90 minutes.
Let your child know that you will be able to be in the room with them and can talk to them during the break between scans. Encourage your child to use their imagination while inside. Tell them to think of their favorite place or pretend they are doing something they love.
If you think it may help to show your child a video of the MRI beforehand, the video below explains the process from a child’s point of view. You can also educate yourself further about MRI scans for children on the Kid’s Health website.