Your child has been referred for an MRI scan. An MRI scanner uses a magnetic field to take detailed pictures of the body. Unlike x rays, it does not use radiation. When you arrive a member of staff will explain to you and your child what the test will involve. An MRI safety checklist will need to be completed for any person entering the scan room. It is ideal for your child to attend their scan wearing clothing with no metal on it.
Some of our MRI scans may involve an injection of MRI contrast, this is to provide further detail on the scan. Occasionally, you may have to bring your child back after their initial scan if the doctor request this. In this instance, your child will be given an appointment on the Paediatric Day Unit prior to their scan so that they can be cannulated.
Preferably one parent or carer will accompany the child into the scan room. As no radiation is involved, parents can stand close to the scanner and even hold their child’s hand during the scan. It is very important that your child lies still during their scan. We ask that parents minimise talking to their child during the scan, as this often results in the child moving, therefore degrading the images.
The MRI scanner makes lots of different noises whilst it is acquiring the images. Your child, and any accompanying adult, will be given earplugs to help reduce this noise.
To help us get detailed imaged, we may need to put a special piece of equipment, called a coil, over the part of your child’s body that we are imaging.
We prefer to scan babies up to 3 months of age using a “feed and wrap” technique. Try to keep your baby awake until you get to the hospital and try to time their feed as you arrive for your appointment.
You will be given a quiet area where you can feed your baby and try and get them to sleep. If possible, please dress your baby in clothing free of metal, including poppers, as this prevents us having to disturb a sleeping baby.
Once baby is asleep, we will swaddle them in a blanket and attempt to scan them. In young babies, this is quite often successful and avoids the need for a general anaesthetic.
The contrast agents are considered to be safe. As with all drugs and medication there is a slight risk of allergic reaction This may vary from a rash, to, very rarely, a more severe reaction.
Severe allergic (anaphylactic) reactions to gadolinium contrast medium have occurred but are extremely rare. These severe reactions, which might involve difficulty breathing and swelling of the lips and mouth, occur in around 1 in every 10,000 people who have gadolinium.
If your child has had a history of a previous allergic reaction to a gadolinium contrast injection, or a severe allergic reaction to some other material, please tell your referring doctor and the MRI radiographer as this will affect whether a further gadolinium injection is recommended.
Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF) is a rare condition associated with gadolinium contrast agent given to patients with severe renal (kidney) disease. Its onset occurs days, weeks or months after receiving gadolinium, with almost all cases occurring within 6 months of the last dose.
Since radiology facilities began routinely screening patients for kidney disease, and withholding gadolinium from those with severe renal disease, NSF has become extremely uncommon.
If your child has a history of kidney disease, please be sure to tell the staff, so that they can check whether the disease is severe enough to mean that they should not receive gadolinium. This might involve a simple blood test for kidney function.
Recently, it has been recognised that very small amounts of at least some forms of gadolinium contrast (about 1% of the injected dose) are retained in the tissues, mostly in the bones; with tiny amounts in the brain.
At this stage, there are no known adverse effects from these very small amounts of retained gadolinium, but radiologists are now more careful in recommending gadolinium contrast. Your child will only have it if it is necessary to aid diagnosis or treatment. South Tees only use contrast agents with a low risk of retention.
Is MRI safe?
MRI is a very safe procedure. However, our policy is that any female who is pregnant, or suspects they are pregnant, will not be allowed to supervise a child during their scan.
Note for parents or carers
Many children manage their scans awake. However, if you feel that your child will not be able to do this, please contact us. We will then need to consider booking them for an MRI scan under G.A. (General Anaesthetic). Unfortunately, the waiting list for this is much longer.
If for any reason you are not able to attend your appointment, please phone us on 01642 835658 as soon as possible.
How to find the James Cook University Hospital
The hospital is on the A172 between Middlesbrough and Marton, TS4 3BW.
How to find the Friarage Hospital
The hospital is located in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, DL6 1JG.
If you require further information please contact us on:
South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust would like your feedback. If you wish to share your experience about your care and treatment or on behalf of a patient, please contact The Patient Experience Department who will advise you on how best to do this.
This service is based at The James Cook University Hospital but also covers the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, our community hospitals and community health services.