Rocket MRI simulator helps young patients

A rocket-shaped MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) simulator is being used at Evelina London Children’s Hospital in a UK first to help children overcome their fears about having a real scan.

MRI play Although a painless procedure, patients who have MRI scans are required to lie absolutely still in a confined space for a period of time, which can range from between 20 minutes to 90 minutes. Last year around 3,000 children had an MRI scan at Evelina London, with around 2,500 of these young patients requiring a general anaesthetic.

Some children require an anaesthetic for a number of reasons including their age, if they experience anxiety about lying in the machine, or if a clinical condition prevents them from keeping still or understanding why they need to keep still during the scan.

Thanks to the new equipment, known as the Playful MRI Simulator, and with the help of play specialists preparing children beforehand, there has been a notable reduction in the amount of young patients needing a general anaesthetic.

This means patients can go home straight away, avoiding the small risks associated with an anaesthetic, which in turn will generate savings for the Trust.

Evelina London is the first UK hospital, and 16th in the world, to install the innovative simulator, which is a smaller version of an MRI scanner. It can mimic the loud sounds of a real scan and has the same size ‘tunnel’ – which the child lies inside – as a real MRI machine.

Tracy Moon, Senior Paediatric MRI Radiographer at Evelina London, said:

The MRI simulator has been great for patients at Evelina London. It helps us explain to children what will happen during their real scan so they can feel in control and prepared.
It is also a great way to help put to rest any fears parents might have. Encouraging children to have scans while awake avoids the small risks associated with a general anaesthetic, reduces anxiety and means the patient can go straight home afterwards.

The King’s Health Partners Imaging and Biomedical Engineering Clinical Academic Group provides comprehensive imaging facilities across one of the largest groups of its kind in Europe.