Having an MRI isn’t what it used to be. Our Children’s Pavilion is now home to the only dedicated pediatric 3T MRI in Central Virginia. What does this mean for kids and families? A lot!
Benefits of 3T MRI
Pediatric MRI is an essential tool for the diagnosis and monitoring of many conditions, including neurological and orthopedic conditions, as well as cancer and congenital heart disease.
A 3 tesla MRI unit is twice as powerful as a standard 1.5 tesla MRI unit. This better signal can be used to improve the resolution of the images, making it a more sensitive study to detect subtle abnormalities. This better signal can also be used to increase the imaging speed, which minimizes the amount of time that a patient needs to be sedated, and sometimes means sedation isn’t needed at all.
“This powerful magnet technology provides extremely clear, high-resolution images of the inside of the body while avoiding unnecessary radiation exposure,” said Gregory Vorona, MD, a pediatric radiologist at CHoR. “It can help us identify specific conditions and diagnoses that may be difficult or impossible to detect with other technologies, such as CT scans or x-rays. In many cases, this level of detail can prevent the need for more complex and invasive testing.”
Fully dedicated to kids
We saw the need for the pediatric 3T MRI and fought with our community to make it a reality. Community members signed petitions and families and our community partners spoke at a certificate of public need hearing to ensure that children have access to the best technology for answers to important health questions.
Providing this new technology in a building built just for kids, with a team specially trained to care for children, has many advantages for families as well.
“From the time families come in the door to the time they leave, every part of the care is provided by people focused on children,” said Tara Kilpatrick, MRI technologist. “Families walk down one hallway to get to the MRI suite and parents wait in a room close by. They can see their child right before they go back and immediately when they come out of the procedure.”
Thanks to Children’s Hospital Foundation, our MRI suite is even more kid-friendly. The Foundation provided funding for special high-tech goggles that allow children to watch movies to pass the time.
“We’ve actually had a child as young as four watch a movie and not require anesthesia for the MRI,” added Kilpatrick.
A machine dedicated just for kids (infancy through age 21) also improves access and allows us to meet the medical and emotional needs of families more quickly.
Preparing for the procedure
Despite the cool technology and welcoming environment, the big equipment can be overwhelming for some kids. Our MRI team uses several techniques to help prepare patients, including a mini MRI scanner that makes noises just like the real thing.
“Kids can get an up-close look at the mini machine. They can touch it and put dolls in for a ‘practice MRI,’” said Kilpatrick. “There’s something about seeing Captain America get an MRI that makes it a little less scary.”
The team also provides kids with super hero capes to help them get ready to conquer their MRI. They’re used to answering the questions kids have in terms they can understand and putting them at ease about the painless procedure.
In the coming months, the MRI room will get the added touch of a hot air balloon theme. Pictures coming soon!