MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a powerful magnet, radio waves, and a computer to produce images of organs and structures in the body. The MRI machine looks like a small tunnel. The exam table moves through the opening of the tunnel. and once lined up, the MRI machine takes cross-sectional images of the body. The pictures appear as slices (like in a loaf of bread).
MRI is a safe procedure to get images, provided that certain rules are followed. The magnets are very strong and patients will be exposed to radio waves and changing magnetic fields.
An MRI Safety screening form must be completed accurately to determine if it is safe to proceed with the MRI. You will review the MRI Safety screening form with the MRI technologist prior to the MRI.
Please contact us before your appointment if your child has had any surgeries with devices implanted outside of SickKids, especially if unknown/undocumented devices were implanted.
This form must be filled out on arrival to the MRI Department, prior to the MRI. You can also choose to print out the form and have it filled and ready with you when you arrive in the MRI Department.
Preparation for all patients (before arrival):
This includes earrings and other body piercings. The MRI machine metal can heat up and cause burns. If the jewelry is magnetic, it could be pulled out by the MRI magnet. If necessary, for body piercings, please visit a shop and have the metallic jewelry replaced with plastic for the MRI.
This includes any wigs, clip hair extensons, metallic beading and metallic hair ties.
No magnetic eyelashes also on parent/caregiver accompanying patient into the MRI room
The antibacterial cloth and padding could have metal and cause a burn. White cotton underwear or underwear that is not decorated/printed is best for MRI. If you happen to forget, we offer disposable underwear or period panty kits.
(Diva cups, disposable maxi-pads and tampons won’t affect the MRI machine and are okay to wear).
MRI can damage their components. Some many manufacturers may offer a free replacement because of the medical need for an MRI. Please consult with your physician/health-care provider.
Dental work can affect the pictures and cause other safety concerns in MRI. Retainer wires and stainless-steel metal caps can locally distort images, but pose no harm. Keyed palate expanders and bite plates can cause discomfort for patients.
They may have to be removed for the MRI scan, please contact MRI beforehand if you have questions. Braces can cause significant distortion in the images and head scans may be attempted in only particular MRI machines.
Please bring the rescue tube with you. Please bring the packaging of the rescue tracheostomy tube. We might need to get an RT to change the tube for the MRI. We also will need to know if your child requires a ventilator at nighttime only or is dependent on the ventilator.
Preparation for parents/caregivers:
Parents or caregivers who wish to be with their child in the MRI Room, during the scan, must be screened and educated to avoid injury. Parents/caregivers too, must remove all jewelry, hair pins, and loose metal objects from their person. They will be screened with their own screening form by the MRI technologist, prior to entering the MRI room.
Questions or concerns?
Call 416-813-5774 and talk to the reception.
Dress your child comfortably in clothes that are easily removable (sweatshirts, t-shirts). Your child will be given hospital pyjamas or gowns to change into for the MRI. There are different preparations for each type of MRI scan available.
Hearing protection must be worn in the MRI room. Patient must wear ear plugs and possibly head phones as well. The MRI staff at SickKids will ensure that the machine, equipment and procedures are tailored to meet the unique needs of each paediatric patient.
Please follow the sedation preparation guidelines provided by the medical team. For MRI exams requiring a general anesthetic, the patient must fast for up to eight hours. See a list of guidelines for fasting before general anaesthetic:
- 2 hours for water/apple juice (CLEAR fluids)
- 4 hours for breast milk
- 6 hours for nonhuman milk (i.e. cow, goat, soy) & infant formula
- 8 hours for solids
For patients with specific dietary concerns (Keto-genic diet), the medical team will give specific fasting instructions.
You will be asked to fast (no food or drink) prior to the exam (4 or 6 hours) - specific fasting time frames will be explained to you by telephone call from our team.
If your child is being sedated for this exam, please follow fasting guidelines above.
For the MRI exam, your child may be given a gadolinium-based contrast agent (GBCA) through an intravenous line (IV). This contrast agent makes certain body structures light up in MRI pictures. Not all MRI studies require a contrast agent. IV contrast, as requested by the Radiologist, can help us provide the earliest and most accurate diagnosis MRI Personnel will ask the patient or the caregiver to fill out an MRI contrast screening form. This form helps to see if there are any concerns with administering the gadolinium-based contrast.
In case of an allergy to contrast, more preparations may be necessary. Please speak with your primary care provider about contrast allergies.
Alternatives to sedation
A “Feed & Sleep” exam is a possible alternative to general anesthetic. Your child must be hungry and active for several hours before the MRI scan. Failure to keep child hungry or awake may cause exam to be unsuccessful. Your child will be changed and prepared for the MRI.
An IV catheter may be inserted for contrast if needed. Before the scan, a technologist will instruct you to feed your child and help them fall asleep. You will then bring your child to the MRI room where the technologist will position them for the exam.
You will have to fill out screening forms (if you have not brought them filled out already). Your child will have to change into hospital clothing or pyjamas. If your child is wearing period panties or athletic underwear, a disposable substitute will be given to change into. For patients receiving contrast or anaesthesia, we will do the pre-MRI work-up. We will insert an IV in your child’s hand, arm, or foot. Prior to anaesthesia, the MRI Technologist must verbally check the patient screening form with the parent/care- giver. For patients that do not require anaethesia, the technologist will ask why the MRI is being performed, explain the scan to both you and your child, and repeat the safety screening process.
- You and your child will then enter the MRI scanning room with the technologist. We can provide a blanket if needed.
- Person accompanying will be asked to sit near the scanner.
- You may bring something to read but it must have no staples.
- You cannot bring your cell phone or electronics into the MRI room.
- Ear plugs must be inserted into your child’s ears for the MRI to safely proceed. Headphones might also be added. Parents must wear headphones in the MRI room as well and may wear ear plugs too. Hearing protection is mandatory in the MRI room.
- The technologist will position your child on the MRI table based on the type of scan being performed.
- While many children are on their backs, some scans require children to lie on their side, headfirst or feet first. Special surface coils may be placed on top of the patient to get better pictures.
Once comfortable, a red light will help align the patient’s body to the correct position. Your child will then enter the tunnel of the MRI scanner. Depending on their position, your child may not be able to see you or talk with you.
After the technologist leaves the scanning room, the MRI will begin. The MRI scanner makes sequences of loud noises. There will be a brief pause after each sequence. The technologist will instruct your child through a speaker. The technologist will ask your child to hold still during the scan to avoid any blurring.
The MRI scan can take between 30 and 60 minutes for each body part. While some patients do not require sedation for their MRI, others may benefit from emotional or medicinal support. Regardless of your child’s needs, the MRI team is there to help your child get through the experience in the best way possible.
Child Life specialists are available from Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to help prepare and support your child during the scan. A Child Life specialist can be present at your child's appointment to explain the process to your child and help them adjust to the hospital experience.
After the test
If your child received contrast, give your child plenty to drink during the day. If your child received anesthesia, follow any instructions given by the Anesthesiologist and nurses.
- View the SickKids MRI Requisition
- View the SickKids Medical History and Physical Form
- View the SickKids MRI Patient Screening Form
- View the MRI Contrast Screening Form
Please take the time to review patient screening and implants before referral. We need specific information on implants from surgeries performed outside of SickKids. We need the device name, model number (or catalog number or reference number) and manufacturer to proceed with MRI. Incorrect information may result in a delay of your scan or a cancellation.
For surgeons and physicians, please inform patients of any implants (name, model (not lot number) and manufacturer). For ear tubes, please let families know if they are plastic.
There are no outpatient appointments or walk-ins on evening or weekends or statutory holidays. Emergency and inpatient service only.
- Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 12 a.m.
- Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
- Monday to Friday, 12 a.m. to 7 a.m.
- Saturday and Sunday, 6 p.m. until 7:30 a.m. the next day
- All long weekends
- Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.