MRI Of The Brain

MRI Of The Brain

MRI is a special type of scan that can take detailed pictures of different parts of the body, such as the brain. A doctor may recommend MRI to help understand what's happening inside your child's brain.

MRI scanning for kids!

A short animation for children about what to expect before and during an MRI scan.

Thanks to Nottingham Trent University and Dr Robert Dineen at the University of Nottingham.


Key points about MRI

  • MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging
  • an MRI scanner can take detailed pictures of the brain 
  • there is no radioactivity present during an MRI scan

Child going into MRI scanner with radiologist standing over child and sibling looking on

What is MRI?

An MRI is a special type of scan. Sometimes a doctor may recommend an MRI to see what’s happening inside your child’s brain. 

The MRI scanner can take pictures of the brain. This gives doctors the detailed information they need to look carefully for differences in the appearance of the brain. 

MRI can show very small abnormalities that can cause seizures or developmental delay. MRI shows this in tamariki (children) better than x-rays or CT scans.

How does MRI work?

MRI produces images of the brain on a computer, using radio waves and a magnet.

Does having an MRI hurt?

Sometimes, your child might feel a bit warm when they are having their scan, but other than that, they will not feel anything. They will be able to talk with the technician taking the scan the whole time.

Is an MRI noisy?

The MRI scan is very noisy. Your child will hear very loud knocking sounds coming from the scanner. This is normal. The radiologist taking the scan will give your child ear plugs or headphones.

Is an MRI safe?

Yes. There is no radioactivity present at any time.

Make sure your child is not wearing any metal objects, such as earrings, hair clips, or watches. This is because MRI uses a magnet to take the pictures.  

What does my child need to do when having an MRI scan?

Your child will need to lie very still on a bed which moves into the centre of the scanner. The scanner is large and round with a hole in the centre. The scanner can make some people feel claustrophobic.

See the KidsHealth page on MRI scans in children for more information.

Will my child need an anaesthetic?

Some tamariki may find it hard to stay still long enough to have their scan. Some tamariki may need a general anaesthetic (GA) to help them go into a short sleep while they have their scan. The appointment time will be longer if your child needs a GA.

If your child needs an anaesthetic, the doctor will explain which part of your hospital they need to go to. You will get information about how to prepare your child for an anaesthetic, and your appointment details, before the MRI scan. Before the scan, an anaesthetist will check your child, explain what will happen and ask you to sign a consent form. After the scan, your child may need to stay for a while to recover from the anaesthetic.

See the KidsHealth page on anaesthetic to learn more.

How long does an MRI scan take?

The scan can take up to one hour. If your child needs an anaesthetic, it will take most of the day.

Who does the MRI?

A qualified radiographer or MRI technician from the radiology department will do the MRI. If your child is awake, the radiographer will talk to your child during the scan, to reassure them. It can be helpful for your child to have their favourite soft toy or comforter with them during the scan.

How long do the MRI results take?

A radiologist is the doctor who will look at your child's pictures after the MRI scan. They will write a report and send a copy to  the doctor who requested the MRI scan, as soon as possible. This should happen within 10 days.

See more KidsHealth content on x-rays and scans 

See the KidsHealth's section on x-rays and scans

Screenshot of KidsHealth website x-rays and scans section


The content on this page has been developed and approved by the Paediatric Neurology Clinical Network, Paediatric Society New Zealand.

Our thanks to Nottingham Trent University and Dr Robert Dineen at the University of Nottingham for permission to embed the video animation for children about what to expect before and during an MRI scan.

Our thanks to My little drummer boys: Preparing your child for an MRI scan for permission to reproduce the photo of the young boy on the MRI scanner bed.

This page last reviewed 17 April 2024.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 any time of the day or night for free health advice when you need it