Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

ACR Radiology - Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Unlike X-rays and CT scans, MRI does not use radiation. There are no known harmful effects from having an MRI scan.

Common uses of an MRI

An MRI is often used to:

  • Look at the heart, brain, liver, pancreas, reproductive organs, and other soft tissues
  • Assess blood flow
  • Look for tumors and find many forms of cancer
  • Evaluate infections
  • Examine bone and joint injuries

What to expect during your child’s MRI scan

When it is time for the scan, the nurse or technologist will take your child to the room where the MRI scanner is kept.

The MRI scanner uses a magnet, so you and your child will need to take off any metal that you are wearing, such as belts, jewelry, earrings and watches. Most braces and fillings in teeth will not be a problem.

Your child will lie down on a special table in the scanning room. Your child must lie very still during the scan. If it is hard for your child to hold still, the nurse may need to sedate your child (give your child medicine to make him or her sleepy).

When your child is comfortable, the table will move slowly into the MRI scanner. The scanner is noisy, however, your child will not feel anything unusual during the scan. The technologist and nurse will use a TV camera to watch your child and a microphone to talk to your child. The test should take between 30 and 90 minutes.

What happens after the MRI scan?

If your child was given sedation, he or she will be able to leave the hospital a short time after waking up. He or she may still feel sleepy or dizzy for a few hours after the scan. Have your child stay home and rest for the day. Your child may play quiet games, but should not do activities such as riding a bike or climbing. You will receive additional special care instructions if sedation was given to your child.

Your doctor will get the results of the test within 24 hours and will share the results with you and your family.

Preparing your child for an MRI scan

Your child will need to lie very still during the scan. If your child doesn't feel well on the day of the appointment, it may be hard to lie still. If your child has a cold or is sick the day of the scan, please call the MRI Department at (414) 266-3180.

If your child will be receiving sedation please follow the instructions below:

  • No solid food eight hours before the scan
  • No milk or formula for six hours before the scan
  • No breast milk for four hours before the scan
  • No clear liquids for two hours before the scan
  • It is important that you follow these special instructions. If your child eats or drinks anything after the times listed above, the scan may be cancelled.

If your child has diabetes or is taking medicine, check with their doctor about these special instructions.

You will receive detailed instructions about preparing your child for the scan. You also will receive a phone call two days before the scan.

Here is some more information you should know before the scan:
  • If you child does not feel well, it may be hard for him or her to lie still. If your child is sick on the day of the appointment, we may not be able to give your child sedation. Please call the MRI department at (414) 266-3180 if your child is not feeling well. You may need to reschedule your child’s appointment.
  • Prepare your child for the possibility that he or she may be given contrast or other medicine through an IV.
  • Sometimes, even with sedation, a child is not able to lie still long enough for the scan to be done. If this happens, the test will need to be done on another day.

Learn more about preparing for your child’s MRI scan (PDF).