Image Gently® and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) - Parent Information

Image Gently® and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) - Parent information


A radiologist is a physician who is an expert in interpreting images of the body obtained with x-ray, fluoroscopy, ultrasound, CT (computed tomography) or MRI equipment. Choosing the most appropriate imaging exam involves a collaborative decision between the radiologist and the referring healthcare provider based on the patient’s suspected illness and the imaging resources available at the health care facility. 


What is MRI?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MR or MRI) is a technique that uses a powerful magnet to look inside the body.  MRI does not expose the patient to ionizing radiation. An MRI examination usually takes a relatively long time (30 to 90 minutes), and requires that the patient stay very still for nearly the entire time to get the best images. Therefore, young children or others who are unable to stay still for this period of time are sedated or receive general anesthesia so that the MRI examination can be performed. MRI reveals detailed anatomy of many parts of the body and is especially useful for imaging of the brain, spine, heart, abdominal solid organs, bowel, bones, joints, and muscles (figures).   

Examples of MR images of the brain, abdomen, heart and foot.

MRI examinations use a strong magnetic field to look inside the body.
Your child and you, if you accompany them into the MRI room, will have to leave your cell phone and any other metallic items that could be attracted toward or damaged by the magnet, outside the MRI room.
MRI does not expose your child to any ionizing radiation.
Intravenous contrast material may be used and require placement of an intravenous catheter, if not already present.Your child’s Doctor and the Radiologist will work together to decide what type of examination is the best for making a diagnosis for your child.
MRI exams will be tailored to best image your child based upon the expertise and equipment available at your institution.


What will the MRI examination to be like?

  • Your child will lie down on a table in the tunnel-like bore of the MRI scanner.
  • A piece of equipment called a coil will be positioned over or around your child.
  • Your child will be given ear plugs and/or head phones to protect their ears from the loud noises made during the examination. 
  • If you accompany your child into the MRI scanner room you will also be given ear protection.
  • An MRI Technologist will perform the examination from a computer workstation next to the MRI scanner room. 


IV Contrast for MRI examinations

A gadolinium-based contrast agent may be used for the MRI examination to give better images of certain structures.  These contrast agents are given into a vein through a catheter.  Allergic-like reactions to the contrast are rare and usually not serious. A history of kidney problems may influence what type of contrast is given or whether or not contrast is given, so it is important to mention to this history to the nurse, doctor, or MRI technologist prior to the examination.


Sedation and General Anesthesia for MRI examinations

Young children or even some older children and adults may need sedatives or anesthesia to enable them to lie still for the entire MRI examination.  Your child’s doctor should take this into consideration when ordering the MRI examination so that it can be scheduled properly and instructions given to prepare for the sedation or anesthesia, including how long your child should go without eating prior to the examination.


MRI Contraindications

  • Because the MRI involves a strong magnetic field, your child and anyone who accompanies your child into the MRI scanner room will need to undergo screening for the presence of any metallic materials or devices that may become dangerous projectiles or malfunction if placed in the magnetic field. For safety, personal items including cell phones, watches, keys and other metallic objects will be stored outside the MRI scanning room.
  • Although exceptions exist, patients with pacemakers, defibrillators, and certain other devices may be unable to undergo an MRI examination.
  • Some metallic items, such as braces, are safe but cause artifacts that lessen the quality of the images (figure).