Let’s Try MRI

Now offering pediatric MRIs without sedation with the help of child life specialists.

Magnetic Resolution ImagingWhat is an MRI?

A magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, scan is an imaging test that uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create pictures of the body. MRIs are used to evaluate problems such as headaches, seizures, hearing difficulties, abdominal pain, cancers and congenital anomalies.

One of the advantages of MRIs versus computer tomography, or CT, scans is that they do not expose children to radiation. One of the disadvantages is that a CT scan could take minutes while an MRI could take hours. Because it would be difficult for a child to be still throughout the length of an MRI, general anesthesia has typically been used to sedate the patient in order to get successful images from the scan.

Now, with the help from certified child life specialists at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, we have the ability to offer MRIs without anesthesia to children who qualify.

How is the Child Life Program involved?

Child life specialists are certified professionals who work in partnership with families, doctors, nurses and other caregivers to meet the unique emotional and developmental needs of children and families. They all hold bachelor’s or master’s degrees in child development, therapeutic recreation or a related field and have extensive clinical training.

When children who are not sedated undergo MRIs, child life specialists are there to help the child shift their attention by using play or distraction activities to focus on something other than the scan. The specialists will meet with the child and family prior to the MRI to work on getting everyone comfortable. During this process, the child life specialist hopes to be able to prepare, educate and support children undergoing MRIs to help them understand what to expect, clear up any misconceptions and provide support and distraction for patients.

On the day of the scan, the child life specialist will prepare the patient for the procedure by familiarizing him or her with the sights, sounds and feelings of having an MRI. This will give the child the opportunity to see the MRI camera and ask questions prior to the imaging study. During the scan, the child life specialist may offer watching a movie, listening to music or other activities that will encourage the child to hold still.

Criteria to qualify for MRI without anesthesia

  • The patient must be at least 6 years old.
  • The patient must be receiving a single MRI scan.
  • The scan must be less than 60 minutes.

Once the MRI is ordered by the child’s physician, the child life specialist will call the child’s caregiver to determine if the patient is a candidate for an MRI without sedation based on their specific needs. If a child is assessed to have pain, involuntary movements, developmental delays, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or history of claustrophobia during the initial phone assessment, he or she will not be considered.

If the patient qualifies, he or she will be scheduled for a “Try MRI without sedation” appointment prior to the already scheduled sedated MRI appointment. If the patient’s first MRI is not successful, the MRI with sedation appointment will remain on the schedule.