Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

What is an MRI scan?

MRI is a routine diagnostic imaging exam that uses a large magnet, radio waves and a computer to produce 2- and 3-dimensional images of the body's organs, tissues and bones. Most MRI machines are a large, tube-shaped magnet that provide a strong magnetic field around your child. A radiofrequency coil is placed over the body part that is to be imaged. The magnetic field, along with applied radiofrequency waves, temporarily alters the alignment of hydrogen protons found in water molecules within the body. Computers construct the images based on the radiofrequency signals emitted by the protons.

MRI scan often is preferred over other imaging techniques, because it does not use ionizing radiation x-rays. It's a way to better evaluate various parts of the body and certain diseases that may not be assessed adequately with other imaging technologies, and it's painless and safe.

An MRI is Interpreted by a pediatric radiologist or pediatric neuroradiologist, and the results are reported to your child's physician.

MRI machine decorated with a sandcastle

MRI with anesthesia

Sometimes, MRIs need to be performed under general anesthesia. Movement will cause the MRI pictures to be blurred. Your child must lie still during the MRI scan. The use of anesthesia will cause your child to go to sleep and remain motionless and comfortable during the scan.

What happens during the MRI scan?

Once your child is asleep, the anesthesia team and MRI technologist will position your child on the scanning bed. The inside of an MRI machine looks like a tunnel. It is necessary for the body part that will be scanned to be in the center of the scanner, so the technologist will move the scanner bed into the tunnel until it is appropriately positioned. Your child will have earplugs to protect their ears because the MRI machine makes loud pulsing or knocking sounds.

An MRI technologist will perform your child's scan and the anesthesia team will continue to monitor your child.

Sometimes, patients receive a substance called gadolinium during the scan, which is needed to provide additional information about some parts of the body. Gadolinium is given through the IV.

MRI scans consist of several sequences of a few minutes duration each that cumulatively take anywhere from 20 to 90 minutes, depending on the information required by the radiologist and your physician. We will give you a more specific time frame before the scan begins.

The radiologist's report will be sent to the physician who requested the exam and your child's doctor will then discuss the results with you. If there is a finding on the scan that requires urgent attention, we will contact the referring physician in order to discuss the findings and plan further treatment.

What is an MRI arthrogram?

An MRI arthrogram is two-part procedure, involving fluoroscopy. First, a special type of x-ray technology, called fluoroscopy, is used to take pictures of the joint after a contrast material has been injected into it. This allows the radiologist to see the soft tissue structure of the joint. The joint is then examined with MRI, a routine diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a large magnet, radio waves, and a computer to produce 2- and 3- dimensional images of the body's organs, tissues and bones.

An MRI arthrogram can be performed on the following joints:

  • ankle
  • elbow
  • hip
  • knee
  • shoulder
  • wrist

Your physician may request an MRI arthrogram when a problem with your child's joint cartilage is suspected. An MRI arthrogram may be more useful than an x-ray, because it shows the surface of soft tissues lining your child's joint as well as the bones.

MRI is done in conjunction with an arthrogram, because it can obtain specific diagnostic information not provided by the arthrogram.