MRI - what to expect

When your child needs to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan at Bon Secours, you can be sure that our staff will do whatever we can to make the experience as comfortable, safe, and stress-free as possible for both of you.

An MRI is a type of test that uses a magnetic field, pulses of radio waves, and a computer to produce detailed images of the internal organs and blood vessels. It is painless and doesn't involve ionizing radiation. Your child's physician may order an MRI to examine his or her brain, spine, extremities, chest, abdomen, pelvis, or any other body part.

The MRI machine looks like a tunnel. The patient lies down on a table that slides into the tunnel, where the images are taken. Because it's important to remain very still during this process, children who are younger than age 6 or who cannot lie still or are fearful may be sedated or receive anesthesia. At this time, only St. Mary's Hospital offers MRI with anesthesia or sedation. Our MRI nurses are experienced in pediatrics and sedation. If necessary, your child can be scheduled for anesthesia by our skilled anesthesia staff.


A video is available for viewing prior to your child's exam. It will help explain what to expect. Before the MRI, one of our staff members call you and go over the specific instructions with you to prepare your child for the test. The instructions depend on whether your child will receive sedation or anesthesia. For example, your child shouldn't eat or drink anything for 8 hours before the MRI if he or she is receiving anesthesia. Children who will be sedated shouldn't eat or drink for 4 hours before the test and should sleep as little as possible the night before. There are also special instructions for babies undergoing MRI.

On the day of the exam, you should dress your child in clothing that doesn't contain zippers, snaps or other metal parts. Do not put barrettes, hairpins, watches, or jewelry on your child. These can interfere with the MRI. You may want to explain to your child what will occur during the test, as well as bring a favorite blanket or stuffed toy for him or her to hold.


Please arrive at the MRI Center on time and expect to stay for about 4 to 6 hours. You will fill out a screening form, after which a nurse will explain the exam and answer any questions you may have.

If your child is not sedated or under anesthesia, you may remain in the MRI room with him or her during the exam. The technologist who operates the MRI machine will talk and listen to you and your child through an intercom located in an adjoining room with a glass window.

Your child will lie on the MRI table and be given earplugs. The table slides into the machine and the machine will make loud banging and clicking noises as it operates. The exam takes about 45 to 90 minutes.


If your child was not sedated, you may leave once the exam is complete. If you child did receive sedation or anesthesia, you will be able to take your child home about 2 to 4 hours after the exam. Sedated children will need to be awake and take clear liquids before being discharged. The radiologist will review your child's MRI images and will fax the results to the ordering physician. You can expect to be contacted by the ordering physician with the results in the next few business days.

At our MRI Center, just like all the Bon Secours facilities, you can feel confident that your child will be treated with compassion and receive excellent care, every step of the way.


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