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Educational Prep Helps Kids Undergo MRIs Without Sedation


A brief intervention program makes it easier for children as young as 5 years old to stay still during MRI exams so they can be scanned without sedation.

A brief, targeted intervention program makes it easier for children as young as 5 years old to stay still during MRI exams - allowing them to be scanned without sedation, according to a study published online in Pediatric Radiology.

Researchers at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital followed 71 children, aged 5 to 12, who had sickle cell disease and had to undergo several MRIs, often of the brain or liver. Thirty-three children were taught about what the MRI did and what they could expect while being scanned. They were then given jobs to focus on during the scans, as well as coping strategies.

“Some patients chose to listen to music or to squeeze a ball to help them remember not to move,” said Katherine Cejda, a Child Life specialist at the hospital and the study’s first author. The children could also choose to have a parent or adult in the room with them during the exam, or they could even watch a movie.

Researchers found that the children who participated in this program were eight times more likely to complete the scans without needing to be sedated than those not exposed to the program. Ninety-one percent of the intervention group underwent MRIs without sedation, compared with 71 percent who did not participate in the program before an MRI without sedation.
The program, which is now offered to all children at St. Jude, has been used to help children as young as 4 years old. Senior author Jane Hankins, MD, an associate member of the department of hematology, said, “This preparation program offers a real advantage to patients.”

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