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What is Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a powerful magnet and radiofrequencies to produce images of the body. The computer used in MRI allows us to produce either 2 or 3 dimensional images of structures. It is useful to see tissues anywhere in the body that otherwise may only be seen through surgery.

The MRI machine looks like a small tunnel. The exam table moves through the opening of the tunnel.

The MRI machine makes images that are different than a regular x-ray. It makes cross-sectional images of the body, most often referred to as slices.

Prior to the exam:

There are different preparations to follow depending upon what type of MRI exam your child is having.

2021 MRI Caregiver Letter for Children 6 Months of Age and Younger

If your child is:

  • Not being sedated and is or is not receiving contrast, then there are no special preparations for your child to follow.
  • If your child is receiving contrast for the exam, an IV will be placed prior to the exam and will remain in for 20 minutes after contrast is given
  • Being sedated for the exam, personnel from the Anesthesia Department will contact you and provide you with specific instructions.
  • Having an MR Cholangiogram, then your child should not eat or drink 2 hours prior to the exam time.
  • If your child is having an MRE (Magnetic Resonance Enterography) exam, you should plan to arrive 1 hour early to the exam for preparation.  The radiology nurse will call the day before the exam to discuss arrival time.  If you do not receive a call, please call the department at 205-638-3157
  • If your child has a noted allergy to contrast, additional preparations may be necessary.
  • Your child will be given a gown to change into for the MRI.

MRI Safety Precautions

The strong magnet may also affect implanted patient devices and other various items. For this reason, everyone MUST be screened to ensure the child as well as parent or guardian, are SAFE to enter the MRI suite.

ALL Implants or Devices must be evaluated by the MRI technologists and radiologists before entering the MRI suite. To ensure efficient screening, prior to arrival please obtain and bring with you the following information about your child's device:

  • Name of Manufacturer
  • Date of Placement
  • Name of Device and Composition (composition may not be listed but we can research it if needed)

The following ARE NOT allowed into the Children's of Alabama MRI suite:

  • Defibrillators (IAED)
  • Greenfield Filters
  • Pacemakers
  • Transdermal medication patches

The following implants/items MUST be evaluated (but not limited to the list below):

  • Bullets
  • Clamps
  • Clips
  • Cochlear Implants
  • Coils
  • Pins
  • Screws
  • Shrapnel
  • Tattoos

The following implants/items require Special Care before and after entering the MRI Field:

  • IV Fluids
  • PCA pumps
  • Programmable VP Shunts
  • Vagal Nerve Stimulators

All jewelry must be removed prior to entering the scanner room.

Note: If a parent/guardian accompanies the child to their MRI, they must be safety screened. Parents/guardians who are pregnant or may be pregnant will not be permitted to accompany their child during the MRI scan. Please make sure that there is someone else available to be with the child during the scan, if needed.

MRI Staff
MRI Staff

When you arrive:

Please check in 30 minutes prior to your scheduled appt.

Once the registration process is completed, a technologist will greet you and escort you to the MRI suite for your child's pre-MRI work-up (screening, IV placement).

What to expect during the exam?

You and your child will enter the MRI scanning room with the technologist. The room is kept cool. The technologist will then position your child on the MRI table. Due to the loud nature of the scan, you and your child will be given ear protection to help block out some of the noise.

Your child will be required to hold very still during the scan. Any type of movement during the MRI will make the images appear blurry, which will necessitate repeated scans. This will lengthen the time the test will take.

Your child will not feel the magnetic field from the MRI scan, but sometimes holding still for a long period of time can be uncomfortable. The MRI scan can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour depending upon the type of examination. Regardless of the length of the exam, the MRI team is there to help him or her get through their experience in the best way possible.

After the exam:

If your child was not sedated there are no special instructions.

If your child received sedation, follow any instructions given by the nurse upon completion of this procedure.

Test Results:

The images from your child's exam are interpreted by a pediatric radiologist and a report is sent to your physician's office.

If your physician has any questions regarding the report, he/she may call 205-638-9730

Question or concern about your child's exam?