MRI Scan under Sedation for Babies and Children

Children’s Services, Colchester General Hospital, Turner Road, Colchester, CO4 5JL

Children’s Ward 01206 746208 or 746209

Children’s Elective Care Unit 01206 744237

What is an MRI scan?

MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. It is an imaging technique using a magnetic field and radio waves to obtain detailed pictures of a part of the body.

More information

Your doctor has requested your child has an MRI scan to help diagnose your child’s condition and plan treatment.

It is a painless test. However, due to the magnetic field, ensuring safety is very important. You will be sent two safety questionnaires to complete, one for your child and one for the chaperone, the person who is going to accompany the child into the scanner. Please bring these completed forms on the day of the scan. If the answer is yes to any of the questions, you may phone the MRI Department on 01206 744222 for advice before coming for the scan.

Please ensure the child and chaperone are wearing metal- free clothes and have removed all metal jewellery.

You will be asked to attend the Children’s Elective Care Unit so that your child can be prepared for the scan. Your appointment letter will give you details of times and there is a map on the back page of this leaflet.

On arrival you will meet your nurse. A play specialist will explain what will happen during the procedure and help prepare your child using pictures and play. A doctor will see you and your child to ensure he or she is fit for sedation. They will discuss consent with you.

We must, by law, obtain written consent before some procedures. This should be by the person with parental responsibility. Staff will explain all the risks, benefits and alternatives before they ask you to sign a consent form. If you are unsure about any aspect of the proposed treatment, please do not hesitate to ask to speak to a doctor or nurse who is caring for your child.

The radiographer may need to give an injection of contrast medium to enhance the pictures during the scan. If this is needed a small tube called a cannula will be inserted into a vein by a doctor or nurse. Anaesthetic cream or spray will be used to make this as painless as possible. The play specialist will support you and your child through this procedure.

This will be done before the sedation is given. The cannula will be removed when your child has woken up from the sedation.

Sedative drugs are used to induce a deep sleep so that a planned medical procedure can be carried out.

Sedation is necessary to ensure that your child remains still during the procedure. This can only be assured if they are asleep. During this time the nurse will carefully monitor your child’s condition.

In a very small number of children, sedation may not be effective in inducing sleep. If this occurs it will not be possible for the procedure to be carried out and we will discuss the options for further investigations with you.

It’s important that your child does not have anything to eat or drink before the sedation is given. Sedation is more effective if it is given on an empty stomach. It is essential that you do not give your child food or milk drinks up to six hours before sedation. However, they can drink clear fluids (water-based drinks like weak squash) up to two hours beforehand. Babies may have breast milk up to four hours before sedation. If you do not follow these instructions your child’s procedure may need to be cancelled.

Your child is given medicine to drink which induces sleep about one hour before the procedure. It is important that the whole dose is taken for it to be effective. The nurse will support you in helping your child to swallow the medicine.

The nurse will check your child’s breathing and use a machine to measure oxygen levels. This will continue until your child wakes up.

Most children wake up after several hours, but others need longer to recover. They may feel drowsy and sleepy for several hours. When your child begins to wake up, initially he or she may be unsteady on his or her feet and will require supervision.

Children are generally sleepier than usual for up to 24 hours after sedation. Therefore, please arrange to take your child home by car or taxi.

If your child is not feeling nauseous, offer something to eat.

Milk may be offered if your child does not feel sick or has not vomited.

If your child is difficult to wake or you are worried about how sleepy they are, place them on their side and ring your GP for advice.

Do not let your child ride a bike, go swimming or do sports for 24 hours. Do not send your child to nursery or school for 24 hours.

If your child is on any medication, continue to give this as normal.

Your child may have mood changes, which can make him or her irritable. This is temporary. Keep a close watch until he or she is back to normal.

Too much sedation may affect your child’s breathing. For this reason every child is weighed and the dose of medicine is calculated for your child’s individual requirements.

Your child is also at risk of injury from falling as he or she may be unsteady on his or her feet when they wake up. They will therefore need careful supervision immediately after the procedure and for the following 24 hours.

One parent is welcome to stay with their child during the scan.

A nurse will accompany you to the department once the child is asleep.

For the scan, your child will need to lie on a table that will slide into the scanner. As the scanner is very noisy, your child will wear ear protectors. It usually lasts for 15-20 minutes, but this may vary.

Your child must stay on the Elective Care Unit until he or she is fully awake and has had something to eat and drink. This will be at least two hours after the sedation is given.

The radiologist will review the scan results the same day and within a few days a report will be sent to your consultant. Your consultant will discuss the results with you at your child’s next outpatient appointment or sooner if necessary.

If you have any further concerns or questions please do not hesitate to contact us on 01206 744237.

Wristbands are used to identify hospital inpatients. When your child is in hospital, it is essential he or she is given and wears a wristband which carries his or her name, date of birth, NHS and Hospital numbers. This ensures that staff can identify your child correctly and give the right care.

As part of your child’s treatment, a photographic record may be made, eg X-ray(s), clinical photographs or digital images which will be kept confidentially in his or her health record and seen only by those involved in their care or for quality checking. They are also extremely important for teaching or medical research, so we may ask for your written consent to use your child’s images, in which case his or her personal details will be removed so that they cannot be identified.

When your child attends hospital you will be asked to confirm his or her first and last names, date of birth, postcode and NHS number if you know it, and to let us know of any allergies.

Please raise any concerns in the ward or department you are in. Ask to speak with the ward sister, matron or department manager. If your concerns cannot be resolved or you wish to make a formal complaint, please call PALS (Patient Advice & Liaison Service) on 0800 783 7328 or pick up a PALS leaflet.

If you or a family member has recently been in Colchester Hospital, you can tell us about your experience by clicking on or by filling in a ‘Friends & Family’ questionnaire at the hospital.