How a sedated MRI works for children according to a Chattanooga doctor

Q: My child will need an MRI, and I'm nervous he won't be able to stay still. Are there options to do it while he is sedated?

A: A sedated MRI is performed on a child to help them get through the process of the MRI and reduce the movement, which can affect the image quality. It also makes the procedure less stressful for both the child and the parent. All children assigned to receive a sedated MRI will have general anesthesia, the deepest form of sedation we provide. We feel it ensures your child is the safest during the procedure.

Before the procedure, the child's medical history will be reviewed to determine if sedation is necessary and safe. A physical exam will also ensure the child is healthy enough to undergo the sedation.

Depending on the child's age and medical history, they may be given an oral sedative to help them with separation anxiety. The sedative will take effect within 20 minutes, and the child will generally feel sleepy and relaxed.

(READ MORE: Erlanger's new child MRI marks final step in outpatient center construction)

During the MRI, the child will be brought back into the MRI scanner with the anesthesia staff and MRI technician. The child will lie on a table that slides into the machine and breathe an anesthetic gas to go to sleep. An IV will be placed once the child is asleep, and then an airway device will be used to ensure the safe delivery of oxygen. The child will be monitored the entire time by a qualified anesthesia provider who has specialized training in pediatric anesthesia.

After the procedure, the child will be monitored until the sedative wears off. Depending on the type of sedative used, the child may feel sleepy or groggy for several hours. In some rare cases, the child may be required to stay in the hospital for a short period for monitoring.

Overall, a sedated MRI can be a safe and effective way to help diagnose various medical conditions in children. If your child's pediatrician has recommended an MRI, don't hesitate to ask about the possibility of a sedated MRI if you have concerns about your child's ability to stay still during the exam.

Dr. Brett Escarza is an pediatric anesthesiology specialist with Anesthesiology Consultants Exchange and a member of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society.

  photo  Dr. Brett Escarza


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