Your Child's Upcoming MRI

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive way to take pictures of structures inside the body. This test is like an X-ray, but does not involve any radiation. These pictures are used by doctors to look at the functioning of your child's internal structures.

Because this is a test that requires your child to lie still and quiet for an extended period of time, we have found it helpful to prepare your child for the MRI.

Sneak-a-peek at MRI

Watch this video of a child's MRI experience.

The day before the test

Helping children with their fears

Please keep in mind that children's fears are different from adults. Most children do not experience claustrophobia (the fear of closed spaces). They are more concerned about the noise of the machine and having to lay still.

Helpful techniques:

  • Talk with your child about his or her appointment. We refer to the MRI as a big camera that looks like a rocket ship or a giant donut and makes noises like you would hear at a construction site.
  • Allow your child to ask questions before, during, and after the experience. We want them to understand the testing process and feel confident and secure.
  • Help your child practice lying still. One useful activity is Pretend MRI, which is described below.

Pretend MRI

Using a coffee table at home, drape a blanket over it with your child lying underneath. Make some type of noise (for example, banging on the table; running the vacuum cleaner, etc.). Each time you practice, have your child lay still for longer periods of time.

On the day of the test

Bring your child's favorite blanket or special stuffed animal. Make sure it has no metal parts (avoid stuffed animals that make noise or talk).

Arrival times

  • You will need to arrive 15 to 20 minutes before your scheduled MRI time because of paper work and the screening process. If you think your child may need extra time to understand and be successful, plan to arrive even earlier.
  • Some tests require an IV for contrast. If you think your child may benefit from a numbing cream (which often helps with the needle poke), please call the Child Life Program office and a Child Life Specialist will explain the process and help set up an appointment for the numbing cream.

Food and medication

  • Feed your child before the test. A hungry child will have a hard time lying still for the length of the test.
  • If your child is taking medication for ADHD, please make sure you give it to them the day of his or her MRI.

Comfort and safety

  • Remove any metal from your child, such as earrings, necklace, watch, or hair-ties.
  • Have your child go to the bathroom before testing.

Other children / siblings

Please arrange for care of your other children. They will not be allowed in the testing area, and we do not have child care providers onsite. Having other children there may make it so you cannot stay with your child who is having the MRI.

During the test

  • If your child is having his or her MRI awake (without sedation) and you pass the safety screening you may stay in the MRI room with your child for the duration of their test.
  • You may talk with your child while they are being positioned for the MRI. This can be soothing and help calm your child.
  • Please stop talking when testing begins. Children are likely to respond by talking or nodding their head. Movement of any kind can impact the test, possibly delaying or cancelling the test.
  • If your child is having a hard time not interacting with you, feel free to leave the testing area. You can take a walk to get something to eat or drink or wait in the waiting area.

After the test

Please do not plan other commitments just after the time of testing. Most tests take about 30 to 45 minutes, but they can take longer. The test cannot be rushed.

Getting your results

It may take several days before results are available. No results will be given the day of testing. Reports will be sent directly to the doctor who ordered the MRI.

Questions or concerns

Please do not hesitate to contact the Child Life Program office if you have any questions or feel your child will need procedural support.