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Desensitization protocol for MRI

Desensitization protocol for MRI

Desensitization protocol for MRI

For some children, getting an MRI can be frightening. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a diagnostic tool that uses a combination of a large magnet, radio waves and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures in the body.

The machine is loud and patients have to lie still in a large tube shaped tunnel from 30 minutes to hours in some cases. Shriners Hospitals for Children — Honolulu radiology manager Jay Shaffer and his team have a new desensitization protocol to ease children’s fears, build trust and eliminate the need for anesthesia.

Building trust

The desensitization program begins with being exposed to the sights and sounds of what they might hear and experience while getting an MRI. Shaffer has a recording of the pinging noises an MRI machine makes. He allows the child to hear a recording of the pinging sounds and explains to them that this is what they will hear during the scanning process. The child then meets a technologist who encourages him or her to enter the exam room. In the room, the child sits on the table where they are given mobile theatre video glasses, the same as they would receive when they go to have their real MRI. The high-tech glasses will play their favorite movie as though they are in a theater. The child is reminded of the pinging noises and to do their best to concentrate on the movie. Disney’s Frozen is a favorite.

Eventually, the technologist gets the child to lie down while the noises of an MRI are played as they watch a movie on their mobile theater glasses.

Once the child is comfortable on the exam table, a molded fiberglass tunnel, similar to the donut-shaped part of the MRI, is slid over the child just the same as an MRI machine. The goal is to have the patient lie with the tunnel over his or her body for 15 to 20 minutes. Once the child is able to lie still long enough, the radiology team schedules an appointment for the real MRI. Desensitization can take between one to six sessions.

“We have had patients who were extremely nervous to come into the room, reluctant to get on the table and they successfully complete the MRI exam after going through our program,” Shaffer said.

Group effort

For MRI exams, the Honolulu Shriners Hospital sends its patients to nearby InVision Imaging.

“It’s great to know we can empower children with the desensitization protocol by helping the child and parents feel confident, comfortable and avoid having to sedate a child,” said InVision Imaging president Eric Hannum.