Mastering the MRI

Getting MRI’s can be scary and uncomfortable, especially if you’re claustrophobic.

While sedation is an option, there’s growing concern about the effects of general anesthesia on the developing brains of children.

But a new program eliminates those risks by training kids to have drug-free MRI’s.

"I walk in the room, I go on the table, the table rises, I go in the machine, and I stay very still," said MRI patient Christian Welch.

Welch knows that there is no wiggle room, but he is a spontaneous roller – a reason why children go under anesthesia about six million times a year.

"There are always risks with anesthesia and I'm a nurse and I know that very well," said Welch’s mother Melody.

The most feared risks are brain damage and death. While rare, sedation-free scanning wipes them out.

That is why Melody Welch signed Christian up for Wolfson Children’s Hospital’s new MR-I Am Ready program.

"Our strategy was just to help kids feel prepared and so in that way they feel in control,” said Laura Merriem McCalvin, a child life specialist at Wolfson.

And it made a huge difference for the Welch family.

"It was an answer to a prayer,” said Melody.

Armed with pictures and video, McCalvin introduces kids to the MRI – what it is, what it does and what it sounds like.

"It's really, really, really loud,” said Christian.

Kids then practice lying still inside a play tunnel while listening to those loud sounds and thinking about what makes them happy.

"We plan what they're going to think about while they're in there, so they have a job to do," said McCalvin.

And Christian is pretty good at that job.

"They have great imaginations so he just laid there very still and thought about a million things."

Christian was able to remain perfectly still for two hours!
Even if you cannot go to Wolfson Children’s Hospital for the training, you can review McCalvin’s MR-I Am Ready prep book.
Doctors say that side-effects of anesthesia, including brain damage and death, are extremely rare.


REPORT: MB# 3676

"MR-I AM READY!": For many children and parents, going to the hospital can be an unsettling experience. The unfamiliar sights, sounds and people may reinforce a child's anxiety and add to their parents' concern. At Wolfson Children's Hospital, the Child Life, Pediatric Radiology, and Pediatric Anesthesiology departments have joined together to take the scary out of one aspect of a visit to the hospital.

Wolfson Children's now offers the "MR-I Am Ready!" program for children scheduled for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. The program is designed to help children ages 6-11 complete their MRIs without the need for sedation.

HOW THE "MR - I AM READY!" PROGRAM WORKS: The parent and child will come in one week prior to the actual MRI to meet with the child life specialist. The specialist will individually prepare the child for the MRI by showing pictures of everything he or she will see, explaining the sequence of events the child can expect when returning for the MRI, and teaching coping strategies.

BUT MY CHILD COULD NEVER BE STILL THAT LONG: Parents who are concerned that their child cannot have a successful MRI without sedation may be encouraged by the track record of the program. At Wolfson Children's, nearly all patients who have completed the training have gone on to have successful sedation-free MRIs. "MR - I Am Ready!" is a highly effective method of equipping children and parents to cope with what may seem like an intimidating experience.


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Laura Merriem McCalvin, CCLS

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