Designed with kids in mind: Child-friendly MRIs

pet mri blog 2

When it comes to medical imaging, pediatric radiologist and biomedical engineer Shreyas Vasanawala knows that caring for kids is unique from caring for adults. To provide care to children that meets their needs, Dr. Vasanawala is tailoring MRI equipment to fit kids, not the other way around.

Children’s size and the necessity to hold still for extended periods to achieve optimal imaging are some of the greatest barriers to using MRIs for the pediatric population. So children who would benefit from MRIs don’t always receive them, Vasanawala explained in a recent Stanford Medicine story.

Why not?

Magnetic resonance technology is challenging to develop and use, says Vasanawala. Most MRI equipment has been designed to meet the needs of adult patients, who receive about 90 percent of MRI exams. To produce a clear picture during a traditional MRI scan, patients must hold very still, sometimes for more than an hour. That’s tough for young children.

Along with being smaller, kids breathe faster and have higher heart rates than adults. These factors make capturing a clear image more challenging. But kid-friendly MRI equipment allows young patients at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford to receive faster MRI exams that require less anesthesia.

For the last 10 years, Vasanawala and his colleagues have been designing and developing technical solutions that make MRI equipment that works for kids. They’ve built devices sized for children’s bodies, while improving the computer software that processes MRI signals. This allows the computer to get better images from much less data. The result? Faster exams and reduced risk for children who need an MRI. And as a bonus, the experience of undergoing the procedure is easier for kids.

To make the process of receiving an MRI less intimidating, the imaging center at the new Packard Children’s, which opened in December, also incorporates both high and low-tech kid-friendliness. In the state-of-the-art PET-MRI room, the machine is housed under a giant sandcastle and the room’s walls are wrapped in photographic landscapes of a California beach scene. Inside the machine, kids wear an entertainment headset to watch movies.

Getting an MRI may not be as much fun as building sandcastles in summer, but now it’s an easier and less intimidating experience for kids at Packard Children’s.


One Response to “Designed with kids in mind: Child-friendly MRIs”

  1. Arlene Towle

    What a wonderful way for a child to to get an MRI. It is scary enough to go into a large adult tube, but at least this way, it is not a scary experience. Too bad the adult ones aren’t less scary also. Maybe in the future the adult ones can become more like a child’s.


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