Child’s Play: Tips & Tricks for Explaining MRI to Kids
Whether your child has incurred an injury during football practice or is experiencing neurological irregularities that require additional insight, your doctor may prescribe magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This imaging technique utilizes a forceful magnet and radio waves to produce unparalleled images of internal body structures – especially the soft tissues (such as muscles, cartilage, tendons, and blood vessels), which tend to elude doctors in X-ray results.1
Pediatric magnetic resonance imaging can aide your child’s physician in diagnosing a myriad of disorders in their premature stages, so your little one can get on the road to recovery, faster.
Although the benefits of MRI are numerous, the claustrophobic nature of the exam can cause many to feel uneasy. According to U.S. News & World Report, the mystery of what goes on at the doctor’s office is what causes anxiety and fright in many patients. Children can be especially petrified of medical exams, but using clear communication is the first step in alleviating their stress.
Timing is everything; sometimes, what you say isn’t always as important as when you say it to your child. Discussing MRI with very young children (around the age of 2) is most effective right before their visit, while older kids (11 and up) benefit from several weeks of preparation.2
Speak to your child in simple words they’ll understand. Comparing the MRI machine to objects they are familiar with can help them better understand what they will experience. Explain that the doctor will use magnets like the letter magnets they stick on the fridge, or the ones they experiment with in science class (but on a much larger scale) to take pictures of them.
It may also help to show your child photos of an MRI machine, or visit a website that provides videos of people undergoing an MRI. Once they know what to expect, it will seem less worrisome to them.
While an MRI typically takes between 20-90 minutes to perform, the GE EXCITE 11.0 MRI scanner at Independent Imaging in Wellington offers unprecedented scanning speed, so you can comfort your child with the promise of a swift and painless visit.
To obtain the clearest tissue images, patients will need to stay extremely still while going through the MRI machine. Practice prior to the procedure with a fun “statue game.” By challenging your child to be still like a statue prior to the day of the imaging, it can help them feel more prepared.
Depending on your child’s age, your doctor may or may not prescribe sedation to calm them during the procedure.3 If the doctor suggests keeping them awake, it’s recommended to bring a comfort object – whether it be a stuffed animal or security blanket (which will be scanned for any traces of metal prior to going through the machine).
MRIs can be very restrictive, especially for children who constantly fidget and move around. Always ask your child’s physician about using a wide, open-bore or high-field MRI machine if available. In addition to its impressive imaging speed, the GE Signa EXCITE 11.0 MRI scanner offers plenty of space and freedom. Try to express to your little one that although they must remain still throughout the imaging process, you’ll be there with them every step of the way.
Needles are a common source of trepidation, yet are a necessary part of many medical treatments. In some cases, your doctor will suggest the use of an intravenous contrast solution to highlight details of the MRI results.4
Use relatable and calming wording to groom your child prior to their visit. Modification can make all the difference in the world; rather than mentioning a tourniquet, say a “stretchy rubber band” will be used. Mention that a “freeze spray” will protect them from pain. Some people prefer to look away and be distracted while getting an IV while others prefer to watch. Giving your child the option can help them feel more in control of the situation.
Explain that while the machine can be noisy, it will not hurt them; unlike X-rays, which emit radiation, MRI will not expose them to harmful elements. To calm your child and block out some of the buzzing and clicking sounds that may occur, you may offer them headphones or earplugs (many physicians will provide these options).
One of the most important resources in preparing your child for an MRI is information. The friendly and knowledgeable staff at Independent Imaging promise to make you and your child as comfortable as possible throughout the entire process. For more information, call (561) 795-5558 or request an appointment online today.