Try getting a child to stay still for up to an hour or more while lying flat in the long, narrow bore of a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine amid frequent loud clicking noises – not likely without sedation. Now at The University of Arizona Medical Center, though, Diamond Children’s patients have done just that.
Granted, there’s a trick.
It comes in the form of new movie monitors recently installed that allow the children to watch their favorite videos without having to wear bulky goggles or deal with a grainy, wavy or lagging picture due to magnetic interference from the MRI itself.
“They’re very expensive but allow patients to watch the movie with headphones to listen to while they’re getting their MRI. For children, that’s wonderful. If you’ve ever noticed how kids watch TV, they kind of zone out,” which is ideal during a scan, said Dorothy Gilbertson-Dahdal, MD, medical director for pediatric radiology at UAMC.
To date, Diamond Children’s patients as young as age 3 successfully have completed scans using the equipment from Cambridge Research Systems.
“We put Toy Story in for him and the boy held still. He did it. He was literally sucking on a pacifier with the headphones on as he watched it,” said Brian LeBlanc, MRI technologist at the UAMC - University Campus MRI Laboratory. “That was totally unexpected. We had sedation lined up just in case.”
Normal movie monitors could not go in the room, due to interference that damages the monitor and counter interference that affects imaging quality. No unshielded electronics, debit or credit cards or cell phones are allowed. LeBlanc even has to take out his hearing aids before entering or they’ll be fried.
The two Cambridge BOLDscreen MR Safe LCD Display systems were purchased courtesy of generous donors to the hospital foundation. The cost – about $20,000 each – was about half that of a Cinemavision goggle system bought in 2012 and still installed on the middle of three MRI machines in the lab, confirmed Lori Throne, RN, UAMC director, Women & Children’s Services.
“Any time we can avoid sedation for pediatric patients, it’s an opportunity to prevent the risk of untoward complications,” Throne said. “Children are easily distracted. This way, the child is relaxed during the MRI, so it’s one less hurdle.”
It enhances the experience for the patient as well as their parents, Throne added. “You are making memories for the child and, frankly, for the parents. They may say yes or no to an advanced procedure later based on their child’s experience now. It sets them up for that day and also for future encounters.”
Dr. Gilbertson-Dahdal noted goggles aren’t as successful with younger children who often don’t like something covering their face. They have to be cleaned between use and wear out more quickly, too. Both goggles and monitors are available for adult use also, but adults usually prefer to listen to music, she said.
One 6-year-old girl, with what turned out to be a benign growth, underwent a scan Dec. 12. She watched Despicable Me 2 on a mirror above her head that reflected the image of the movie from a monitor outside the MRI machine where her parents observed.
“O.K., once again, sweetie, take a big breath and hold it in,” the MRI technologist called through a microphone that allows him to talk to patients through their headphones. In the hour that it took for her scan, about 500 images were taken.
Preferring not to be named, the parents acknowledged relief at how simple and low-stress the process was. They brought the DVD, their daughter’s favorite, from home – but the lab has a small library of videos for kids to choose from to watch during scans.
Wearing pink striped pajamas, the young girl simply smiled shyly and tucked her head into her mother’s side.