Thursday, November 10, 2011

To Sedate or Not to Sedate-MRI Talk

It's tough to decide on whether or not to sedate your child during their MRI--Some children do just fine laying still for the procedure, while others may require medication to help them relax (or sleep).  So how do you know?

Will my child need to be sedated?

Rachel is 8 and has NF1 and sensory integration disorder, so we thought there would be NO WAY for her to do an un-sedated MRI, but as of this year, (with LOTS of practice and praising) she no longer uses sedation, to get through the 45 minute scan.
Several factors are considered when determining if a child will need sedation, including:

•    The age and developmental level of child (You know your child best!)
•    The length of time it takes to do the procedure (a typical scan runs from 45 minutes to an hour...COULD take longer)
•    The amount of discomfort expected during the procedure (Injections of contrast may have to be given during the scan)
We tried an un-sedated MRI for our now 14 yr old NF1 son.  Braden has ADD, and a pretty significant developmental delay.  The Drs. ordered a spinal and brain MRI, in the SAME appointment...BIG MISTAKE.
If you know the scan will be of different body parts, and you are going for un-sedated...Please take my word on this, and schedule the scans on different days!  Our poor son was laying in the MRI tube, for almost 4 hours!  (this was because Braden became very wiggly and uncomfortable--even with his favorite movie playing inside the tube..and the tech had to repeat many of the scans)
The scheduler will work with you to schedule the scans on different days, and even though doing it this way is very time consuming--trust me, you will be glad you took that extra time!
If you are a first timer...The following are some pros and cons, when it comes to sedation and MRI's.
**Side Note: If you choose sedation and your child has a tendency to wet the bed...It MAY be a good idea, to bring a pull-up, or change of clothes.  We learned this the hard way!

PROS for Sedation

*The child will be asleep and positioned by the MRI techs AFTER they are asleep

*The child will not remember the MRI experience or hear the noise

*No need to repeat scans, unless the tech feels something needs to be looked at more closely

*Less traumatizing 

CONS for Sedation

*Typically, you cannot be in the same room with your child if they are sedated...Sometimes ONE parent is allowed in the MRI room.

*Longer recovery time...It can take several hours, for the sedation to wear off...My kiddos took the entire day to recover as they were VERY sleepy and groggy afterwards.

*Cost.  Depending on insurance


PROS for NON-Sedation

*Depending on location and availability--Your child can watch their favorite movie during the scan

*FAST recovery--Just scan and go!

*Since MRI's are a part of life for a person who has NF--the earlier you get them used to it..the better

*You can be in the room -- to comfort your child if needed

CONS for NON-Sedation

*The child could become afraid of the noise or uncomfortable in the closed in space

*Repeat scans are common, due to wiggling

*Longer Scan times

Basically, it's up to you...and how you think your child will handle the procedure...Some kids are just better, if you sedate them...Others, do really well without sedation.

At our home, we make a BIG DEAL out of MRI day.  The night before, we practice laying very still for 3 minutes at a time...If you wiggle, you have to start over.  If you make it the whole 3 minutes without a wiggle, you get a treat. (M&M, or other small piece of "treat")

 We talk about how important it is to stay very still, so the doctors can see their body nice and clear!  

I have even taken pictures with my camera....and wiggled it on show my kids what it looks like to get a blurry picture.  We talk about how the doctors use these pictures to see if everything inside the body is okay...And if it isn't, the doctor will find ways to fix it.

MRI day is also special because the kids know that after they do an awesome job for the MRI tech...They will get some special treat for the ride home....(Yes, I bribe my children. I do what works, and it even sometimes works on my husband!)

The following is some GREAT info, that I found around the web!

How will my child be sedated?
In the majority of cases sedation is administered via an intravenous (IV) tube. Some infants — those under 2 years of age — occasionally can be sedated with oral medications. The sedation physicians will determine the way the child will be sedated on the day of the MRI. 

During the MRI

While the child is sedated and the MRI is taking place, he or she will be monitored constantly. Breathing, heart rate, blood-oxygen level and blood pressure will be tracked. In addition, the child will be watched on a camera in the MRI scanner. The nursing staff will report any movement to the doctor, in which case additional sedation may be needed.
The MRI usually lasts 30 to 60 minutes.


What Is An MRI Like?

An MRI is LOUD!  Your child will wear ear plugs and special head phones to protect their hearing.  Even with those--the noise isn't pleasant.  If the child is watching a movie, the sound will go through the headphones.

The MRI physician and staff will be outside the room behind a large window where the equipment controls are located. They will be able to see the child through the window and a camera, and will constantly monitor the child during the procedure. If the child is not sedated, he or she will be given a device that can be used to let the staff know if he or she needs anything during the procedure.

After the procedure
Once the procedure is finished, the table will slide out of the scanner. If the child did not receive sedation medication, he or she can go home immediately. However, if the child was sedated, he or she will be monitored in the recovery area until the medication wears off and he or she is awake. Parents can remain with the child in the recovery area. If an IV was inserted, it will be taken out after the procedure and when the child is awake.

*Sedation or not...It's always best to talk to your child and prepare them for the experience.  


  1. Joey has had a few MRI's and for all he's been sedated. Even for his CTScans, he's sedated but he's only four and has trouble sitting still for three seconds while they x-ray his leg. But I do agree with your pros/cons and such.

  2. Ryan had one non sedated when he was wiggly (also has ADHD) , but the rest has been fine. Be careful when they do the contrast though. Last time they pushed it too hard and poor Ryan threw up while strapped down in the machine. He almost choked. Luckily, they were able to get him out quickly. We go to TCH on December 7th again and they will give him a anti nausea med before the contrast.

  3. EXCEPTIONAL! WOW! I have been debating wether or not to try and unsedated MRI for my 6 yr old...I would MUCH rather have unsedated than sedated and this post has helped me!!


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