CHOC Children's Radiology
What is an MRI?
Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI is a non-invasive diagnostic procedure that lets a doctor see detailed pictures of the inside of a patient’s body. MRI does not use X-rays or any radiation. Instead, MRI machines use strong magnets and radio waves to form an image of organs, bones and tissues inside the body. Radiologists use expertise and specialized equipment to interpret the MRI to help diagnose problems or check how the body is responding to treatment.
What types of MRI machines are used at CHOC Children’s?
At CHOC Children’s we are proud to offer our patients the very latest in MRI technology. We currently offer the latest Siemens 1.5T model MRI machine with advanced technology designed to reduce scan time by up to 50%.
In addition to the 1.5T, we offer a 3T MRI. The 3T MRI provides many benefits to pediatric patients. The most notable benefit of the new 3T scanner is its increased speed and excellent image quality. The use of a super-short magnet also allows many exams to be completed with the child’s head outside of the scanner.
The radiologist and the child’s doctor will select the right type of MRI machine depending upon the part of the body being imaged. Due to the use of the strong magnet, MRI cannot be performed on patients with implanted pacemakers, cochlear implants, certain prosthetic devices, implanted drug infusion pumps, neurostimulators, bone-growth stimulators, certain intrauterine contraceptive devices or any other type of iron-based metal implants. Guidelines from the Radiology Department are given to the patient and family prior to the study.
What is the preparation for a MRI?
To help ensure the patient’s safety, please bring a list of the child’s current medications, allergies and information about any internal surgical implants to the MRI appointment. Children should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes without any metal, such as zippers, buckles or snaps. If anesthesia is not required, patients are encouraged to bring a favorite DVD to watch or CD to listen to. If the imaging will be done under anesthesia a CHOC Children’s radiology nurse will call prior to the scheduled appointment with specific eating instructions for the day before the procedure and additional information about what to expect the day of the MRI.
How is an MRI performed?
- The MRI technologist will screen the child prior to entering the MRI suite. Because of the strong magnetic field, the patient must remove all jewelry and metal objects, such as hairpins or clips, hearing aids, eyeglasses and dental pieces. In order to get the highest quality images, the child must remain still during the scan.
- The MRI machine is a large, tube-shaped machine that creates a strong magnetic field around the patient. The patient will lie on a table that slides into a tunnel in the scanner. The technologist will position the child and make sure they are as comfortable as possible.
- During the scanning process, a loud clicking noise will sound as the magnetic field is created and pulses of radio waves are sent from the scanner.
- Some children may require an intravenous contrast material for the scan, there may be some discomfort with the placement of the IV into the vein but the contrast itself is not painful. The contrast medication will be given halfway through the procedure.
- The technologist will be able to see the child through a front facing window as well as with a camera placed at the back end of the scanner, and will talk with the patient throughout the procedure.
- Most scans last 30-60 minutes.
Is an MRI dangerous?
An MRI is a safe, noninvasive procedure, and unlike X-rays or CT scans, does not use radiation. Because MRI uses a strong magnetic field, it cannot be done with a heart pacemaker, inner ear implant, brain aneurysm clip or other metal devices. Please notify the MRI technologist prior to the imaging if the child has any type of implants.
What happens after a procedure?
A report of the child’s scan will be sent to the doctor who ordered it, usually within 48 hours. (Please contact the doctor who ordered the scan for the results.) Patients should be able to resume normal activities immediately, unless the child's doctor instructs otherwise. If anesthesia was administered, the child will be taken to the recovery area to be watched until the medication wears off and the child wakes up. The child may feel groggy, tired or sleepy for a period of several hours after the procedure. If contrast was used, mildly increase the child’s fluid intake. The contrast will pass naturally through your body within a day.
To make an appointment for an MRI exam at CHOC Children’s, please call (888) 770-2462.