MRI Of The Brain

MRI Of The Brain

Sometimes, to understand what's happening inside your child's brain, your doctor may recommend MRI, a special type of scan. 

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 to remember 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?

Sometimes, to understand what's happening inside your child's brain, your doctor may recommend MRI, a special type of scan. The MRI scanner can take pictures of the brain. 

MRI images of a child's brain

This gives doctors the detailed information they need to look carefully for differences in the appearance of the brain. 

MRI can show the very small abnormalities that can cause seizures or developmental delay. MRI shows this in children better than x-rays or CT scanning.

How does MRI work?

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

Does having an MRI hurt?

No. Your child will not feel anything or experience any effects afterwards. 

Is an MRI noisy?

The MRI scan is quite noisy. Your child will hear a knocking sound 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. 

You can watch the video at the top of the page with your child to help prepare them.

The scanner can make some people feel claustrophobic. You can watch the video at the top of the page with your child to help prepare them.

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. 

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 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?

The radiologist and your specialist will look carefully at your child's scan and write a report. They will send a copy of the report to the doctor who requested the MRI scan as soon as possible. That should happen within 10 days.

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 23 February 2018.
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