Don't Drug Me, Doc: Mastering The MRI

Don't Drug Me, Doc: Mastering The MRI

CREATED Sep 26, 2013

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - Getting an MRI 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 on children. Now there is a new program that can eliminate the risks by training kids to have drug-free MRI's.

If you have an MRI, these are the rules:

"I walk in the room, I go on the table, the table rises, I go in the machine, and I stay very still," seven-year-old "Master of the MRI" Christian Welch told Ivanhoe.

Christian Welch knows that there's no wiggle room in a MRI machine, but he's a naturally a spontaneous roller.

 The American Society of Anesthesiologists said children go under anesthesia about six million times a year in the United States. Still, Christian's mom didn't want to put him under.

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

The most feared risks are brain damage and death, but doctors say that almost never happens. Sedation-free scanning wipes out those risks. It also reduces wait times for scheduling, which means faster test results. That's why Melody signed Christian up for Wolfson Children's Hospital's new "MR-I am Ready!" Program.

"It was an answer to a prayer," says Melody.

"Our strategy is just to help kids feel prepared and so in that way they feel in control. They know they're not going to be surprised by anything," Wolfson Children's Hospital's Child Life Specialist Laura Merriem McCalvin, told Ivanhoe

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

Laura asks Christian, "How loud is it again?" Christian replies, "It's really, really, really loud."

Next, kids practice lying still inside this 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," says Laura. "Their job is to hold still, and think about whatever they chose."

Melody says Christian thinks about, "Star Wars. You know they have great imaginations, so he just laid there very still and thought about a million things."

In the end, Christian was picture perfect.

"Easy," says Christian.         

Christian was able to remain perfectly still for two hours.

If you can't make it to Wolfson Children's Hospital for the training, you can review Laura's MR-I Am Ready prep book.


"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.


Laura Merriem McCalvin, BS, Certified Child Life Specialist, talks about a new method for getting kids ready for an MRI.

For parents, why is this a good alternative to anesthesia?  

Laura Merriem McCalvin: There are always risks to anesthesia. Anytime you are going to sleep under anesthetic, there are associated risks. We like to avoid those and then also the patients who come and do this, they can get in quicker; which means they are getting the results faster and it just allows the child to have some control in the healthcare environment.  They are able to master something; able to feel like they have accomplished something, which is huge.  

What was your strategy behind the plan of how you train them? 

Laura Merriem McCalvin: Our strategy was just to help kids feel prepared. So in that way they feel in control, they know they aren't going to be surprised by anything and since they know the sequence of events, they know they can come in, they know they can do it. Having them practice holding still, a lot of kids don't understand how still they have to be; even though we are taking their brain picture, their toes have to be still, their legs, everything and so that just gives them a chance to practice and see how still they need to be.

I can't imagine staying that still for that long. Are you surprised it is as successful as it is?

Laura Merriem McCalvin: Yes and a lot of parents are surprised too, because every kid is going to be bouncing off the walls when they do not have to be still.  However, when you ask them to, a lot of them can do it and so, I get surprised with patients who come in, parents get surprised too and it really shows that kids can do it and we have been most successful with kids six and older.  Even those younger kids really can hold still. 

Any advice for adults who are going to be going through an MRI?

Laura Merriem McCalvin: Ask questions so you know what to expect.  Don't be wondering, if you feel like you might be claustrophobic, just close your eyes, think about something else.  Go to your happy place. With kids, we plan what they are going to think about while they are in there; they have a job to do.  Their jobs are to hold still and think about whatever they chose to think about; whether it was a basketball game, or Disney World; wherever is their happy place. 


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