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MRI Scan

What is an MRI?


The MRI Scan (magnetic resonance imaging) is a test that allows the doctor to take a picture of the inside of your child's body without using radiation (x-rays). The scanner uses a powerful magnet to picture the tissues of the body. The MRI scan is useful in picturing many different body parts including the spine (backbone), brain, head, chest, abdomen, pelvis, arms and legs. Some MRI studies may require that a contrast be injected into a vein to improve the picture. A contrast is a substance used to better look for specific problems such as an area of inflammation, or to picture the blood supply. If a contrast study is ordered, your child will have an IV started.

Getting ready for the MRI:

Your child may be asked to change into a hospital gown. The MRI technologist will be sure to have your child remove any metal objects he may be wearing (coins, keys, jewelry, hairpins, hearing aids, eyeglasses) since the scanner has a strong magnet. You may stay with your child outside the scanner room until it is time for the test to begin.

Inside the scanner room your child will lie on a padded table. Soft straps will be placed around your child to help him/her remain still so clear pictures can be taken. A helmet-like holder is used for MRIs of the head. The table will move into the opening of the scanner. Your child will not feel anything, but will hear the loud drum beat sound of the machine. Testing times vary from 15 minutes to 1 hour or more.

Some children may need medicine to help them relax (called sedation) or general anesthesia to help them hold still. Your child's doctor will explain this if it is needed.

General Anesthesia:

The anesthesiologist will speak to you and your child before the test. When anesthesia is needed, your child will breathe into a mask to fall asleep. Once your child is asleep, an IV will be placed to give medications or constrast, if needed. The anesthesiologist will stay with your child for the entire test.

After the scan is finished, your child will go to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU). Once your child arrives in the PACU, the nurses will notify the Day Surgery waiting room attendant. The attendant will ask you to come into the PACU so your child will see you as he/she is waking up. Two adult visitors are allowed to stay with each child in the PACU. Visitors under 18 years of age are not permitted in the PACU or Day Surgery Waiting areas. If you have other children, please do not bring them to the waiting areas. Once your child is awake, he/she will be discharged home or moved to a hospital room.

Outpatient instructions for children requiring sedation:

Sedation refers to the use of medicines, usually given through an IV, to help your child remain still during the MRI. After receiving sedation medications, you will stay with your child in the sedation department until he/she is awake.

Please follow these instructions for children requiring sedation:

  1. Report to the Admitting Office on the morning of your test. Bring any papers from your doctor.
  2. Please call the Radiology Scheduling Office (757-668-7251) to reschedule if you are unable to keep your child's appointment or if your child has a cold, fever or other illnesses.
  3. Keep your child up late (12 midnight) the night before the test, and get him/her up early the morning (5 a.m.) of the test. Do not let your child nap before the test.
  4. Your child will not be able to eat or drink for a certain number of hours prior to the test. The length of time will be determined according to your child's age. You will receive this information during a pre-sedation phone interview with a nurse prior to the test.
  5. Give usual medications with small amount of water only.
  6. Please bring your child's insurance cards with you.
  7. After the test, your child will be monitored by the nurses in the Sedation Department until he/she is fully awake. Please stay with your child while he/she is waking up. Once your child is awake and able to eat, he/she will be allowed to go home.
  8. Please make arrangements for someone to take care of your other children because your child will require your undivided attention while you are at the hospital.

A doctor, called a radiologist, will report the results to your child's doctor. Please call your child's doctor or the Radiology Department (757-668-7086) for any questions.

Outpatient instructions for children not requiring sedation:

  1. If your child's test is scheduled at the hospital, report to the Admitting Office on the morning of your test. If the test is scheduled at Princess Anne Surgery Center or Oyster Point Surgery Center, report to the registration desk. Bring any papers from your doctor.
  2. Please call the Radiology Scheduling Office (757-668-7251) to reschedule if you are unable to keep your child's appointment or if your child has a cold, fever or other illnesses.
  3. Give medications prescribed by the doctor as usual.
  4. There are no food restrictions unless your child is having an MRI of the abdominal area. If that is the case, your child must not eat or drink anything for 4 hours prior to the scheduled test time.
  5. Please bring your child’s insurance cards with you.
  6. Your child may bring a music CD that he/she may enjoy during the exam.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 01/2010