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Preparing Your Child for an MRI

On this page, you will find information to share with your child about getting a MRI, written in terms Child Life Specialists believe children can easily understand.

What is an MRI?

  • MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. These scans take pictures of different parts of the body.

Why it's important to have an MRI:

  • "The doctors want to take some pictures of (specific body part) to help see what might be making you feel bad, hurt, etc."

Your job during the MRI:

  • It is very important to hold still so that the pictures come out clear.

What happens when having an MRI?  Information to share with your child...

  • If you are coming from home for your MRI you will wait in the waiting room and then walk or ride in a wheelchair to the MRI scanner. 
  • If you are already staying at the hospital, you will go to the MRI in a wheelchair or on a bed with wheels.
  • When you get to the room where your pictures will be taken, the nurse will help move you to the bed that slides in and out of the MRI scanner.
  • The scanner looks like a big doughnut with a hole or open space in the middle. Some kids say the scanner looks like a spaceship. 
  • The bed will slide into the hole or open space, when it is time for your pictures.
  • The bed sometimes has a cloth seatbelt, just like in a car, to keep you safe.
  • Having your pictures taken will not hurt and nothing will touch you.
  • An MRI will usually take about 30-45 minutes. The MRI scanner makes a loud noise when it takes pictures. Some kids say it sounds like a jackhammer or really loud buzzing. There are headphones that you can listen to music with, to help with the noise.
  • You may need to drink some special medicine called contrast. This medicine helps your doctor see the pictures of your body better that the scanner took.  
  • The special medicine or contrast may also be given through an IV.
  • Since an MRI scanner uses magnets, you will need to remove all metal from your body (jewelry, hairclips, etc.) before you go into the MRI room.
  • Sometimes a parent can stay with you during the MRI.
  • The radiology technologist taking the pictures will be able to see you and talk to you during the procedure.

Things that can help when having an MRI:

  • Listening to music
  • Using your imagination: think about being in a castle, in outer space or at the beach
  • Discussing what will be helpful to you and your child