Skip to main content
COVID-19
Information for the community – Updated guidelines from 27 July 2021
Acknowledgement
The Women's and Children's Hospital is located on the traditional lands for the Kaurna people, and we respect their spiritual relationship with their Country. We also acknowledge that the Kaurna people are the custodians of the Adelaide region, and that their cultural and heritage beliefs are still as important to the living Kaurna people today.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website may contain images, voices and names of people who have passed away.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRI Feature 2

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a modern diagnostic method to look inside the body. It is believed to be safe for unborn babies. MRI is useful for detecting abnormalities of the brain, spinal cord, blood vessels, joints and other internal organs.

In 2003 the WCH installed a MRI scanner which enables children to have state of the art imaging services at the WCH. The purchase of the MRI was possible thanks to the generosity of a number of supporters: this included a $1m donation from the Little Heroes Foundation. This contribution was matched by the South Australian Government.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is one of the latest diagnostic methods used to look inside the body without the use of x-rays. It is even believed to be safe for unborn babies. MRI is very useful for detecting abnormalities of the brain, spinal cord, blood vessels, joints and other internal organs.

During MRI, pictures are taken at different angles and are processed by a computer to produce a detailed picture of the body part being scanned. MRI uses a large magnet, radio waves, antenna and a computer to obtain these images. The magnetic fields and radio waves are safe and no adverse health effects have been reported with normal use, providing ferromagnetic metals are kept away from the strong magnetic field.

How to access this service

Referral requirements

A referral letter or request form is required from a specialist doctor prior to booking a MRI study. A safety questionnaire must also be completed before the study can be booked. Please bring with you the completed questionnaire and the referral letter or request form if your specialist doctor has not already forwarded it to SA Medical Imaging at the WCH.

Appointments may be made by telephoning (08) 8161 7447, Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5pm.

Many of our studies require special preparation. Instructions will be given at the time the appointment is made. If these instructions are not followed it may not be possible to carry out the study and a new time will need to be booked so please be sure to follow instructions carefully.

Hours

Monday – Wednesday – Thursday, 8:00am – 8:00pm
Tuesday – Friday, 8:00am – 6:00pm

Location

Level 2, Rogerson Building, Medical Imaging (SA Medical Imaging)

Appointment cancellation

If you are unable to keep an appointment time, please contact SA Medical Imaging at the WCH campus on (08) 8161 7447 to cancel or reschedule.

Please confirm you will be attending an appointment if you are sent a confirmation text to your phone. If you do not reply, another patient will be booked at your child's appointment time and they will not be able to have their scan.

If you do not attend three appointments in a row, your referral will be closed and we will inform your referrer.

Further Information

We aim to make the experience as pleasant as possible for you and your child whilst obtaining the information from the MRI study that your doctor requires.

A parent is encouraged to stay with children during the study provided the special MRI safety precautions are met.

Other children will not be allowed to accompany you to the MRI. Please make alternative arrangements for their care on that day.

The scan time for the MRI study will vary depending on which or how many parts of the body are being examined. This can vary anywhere between 30 to 90 minutes. Your child will be required to lie still for this period of time. This may be difficult for small children or children who find the MRI frightening. Please inform you doctor if your child is claustrophobic or if you think they will be unable to lie still for the time required. Your doctor may need to arrange for your child to have a general anaesthetic for the study. If this is the case special instructions will be given to you.

Forms

MRI request forms are available from SA Medical Imaging at the WCH – phone (08) 8161 7447.

A safety questionnaire must be completed for all patients, prior to the scan.

A MRI Information Sheet and Contrast Consent Form may also be required to be completed.

Patients requiring a general anaesthetic will need an Admission Booking Form as well as the MRI request form.

Resources

  • Information sheets for MRI studies and general anaesthesia are available from the SA Medical Imaging office phone (08) 8161 7447.
  • View "A child’s guide to hospital: MRI" (YouTube video)

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

What should we expect?

When you and your child arrive for your child’s MRI scan, your details will be checked by the reception staff then you and your child will be asked to take a seat in the waiting area. From there the radiographer and or nurse involved with your scan will introduce themselves. Together you will go through the MRI safety checklist and other relevant consents. Once all the consents are completed satisfactorily, your child will be asked to change into hospital scrubs. This is to prevent anything on your child’s clothing degrade the image quality of the scans.

What happens during the MRI Scan?

For most scans your child will be allowed to watch a DVD because the scan can take a long time. This will help pass the time and help take your child’s mind off the loud noise made by the scanner. If your child has a favourite movie they can bring it along or select one to watch from our catalogue. Your child will watch the movie through special goggles that rest on their eyes and hear it through headphones that your child must wear to protect their ears. Your child also has the option to listen to music if they prefer. The MRI scanner makes lots of loud knocking noises which change while taking pictures. During the MRI scan your child may feel warm this is normal. An MRI scan does not hurt. The only annoying part is the loud noises. This noise cannot be reduced so your child will be provided with hearing protection. If at any time your child needs to talk to the radiographer they can squeeze a buzzer which they hold in their hand. The radiographer will stop the scan and talk to your child through the intercom.

The scanner itself has a tunnel through the centre which is open both ends; your child will need to move slowly into the centre of the scanner. To help us with the pictures we use a variety of “coils” these are placed comfortably over the body part we are scanning.

MRI 1
MRI 2

– Patient with video goggles preparing for a MRI of the brain.

How long does the scan take?

MRI scans last between 30 and 90 minutes depending on the area/s requested by your Doctor.

Sometimes there may be the need for your child to have an injection of contrast “dye”. The dye can help show up certain parts of the body. If contrast needs to be given, the nurse will need to place a small needle in your child’s vein. To help prepare your child for this, we will arrange for numbing cream to be applied on your child’s elbow or back of hand, to help reduce the feeling of the needle.

We aim to be on time however; sometimes we are delayed by emergency scans that have priority.

How long does the scan take?

MRI scans last between 30 and 90 minutes depending on the area/s requested by your Doctor.

Sometimes there may be the need for your child to have an injection of contrast “dye”. The dye can help show up certain parts of the body. If contrast needs to be given, the nurse will need to place a small needle in your child’s vein. To help prepare your child for this, we will arrange for numbing cream to be applied on your child’s elbow or back of hand, to help reduce the feeling of the needle.

We aim to be on time however; sometimes we are delayed by emergency scans that have priority.

Are there any risks?

There are no known risks associated with having MRI scans when operated in a well-controlled environment. They are painless and have no lasting effects. Your child may feel warm during certain scans because of the energy used to take the pictures. The scanner does not touch your child during the scan; however, coils may be rested on the body or placed around certain body parts.

MRI scans are not suitable for all people. Patients with certain metal implants inside their body cannot be scanned because the scanner emits a strong magnetic field that could affect the implant. This is why it is important for you to complete the safety questionnaire accurately because it helps us to carry out a thorough metal check prior to your child having the scan.

Special Precautions

Any person who enters the MRI scan room needs to complete the safety questionnaire. This includes any person accompanying the patient. It is important that the questionnaire and all relevant medical history are filled in accurately as this is used to ensure the safety of all persons entering the scan room.

The magnetic field may affect some implanted medical devices including certain pacemakers, implanted defibrillators, infusion pumps, various nerve stimulators and embolisation coils. All body piercings, jewellery and medication patches must be removed as these may heat and cause injury or affect the quality of the scan. To ensure safety in the strong magnetic field, other objects that must be removed before entering the scan room include: mobile phones, credit cards, watches, pens, keys, safety pins, hair pins and any metallic or magnetically operated devices.

Is a General Anaesthetic required?

Some children may require a general anaesthetic to have a MRI scan. Generally, children between three months and five years of age will have the MRI scan under a general anaesthetic. This is because the child needs to remain perfectly still for a long period of time or he or she may find the loud noises frightening and will not co-operate.

Children having a general anaesthetic will need to "fast" (not drink or eat anything for a while before the scan, depending on their age). The reason for this is to reduce the risk of stomach contents entering the lungs during and after the procedure and causing complications. Fasting times and instructions will be provided in your admission letter.

On the day of the procedure, your child will be admitted to DOSA. They will be assessed by an anaesthetist and a nurse to ensure they are fit for anaesthesia.

Once the MRI scan is complete, your child will be taken to recovery for a period of time before being sent back to a ward/day surgery. When your child has adequately recovered and has had something to eat or drink, you will be allowed to take them home. This is usually a couple of hours after the scan.

What about younger babies?

Fast Feed and Wrap Technique

For babies between newborn to 3 months of age, we prefer to try the MRI scan using the “Fast, Feed and Wrap” technique. This technique takes advantage of the fact that most babies will go to sleep after a good feed; this allows the scan to be completed without the need of a general anaesthetic. The success of this technique is based on following the pre-scan preparation in detail

Your baby needs to be fasted and kept awake for approximately four hours prior to the scan time. Try to keep your baby awake on the journey to the hospital so that it will be easier for them to fall asleep at the time of the scan. Please do not feed your baby until instructed by the radiographer or nurse to do so. Once your baby is fed and settled they will be taken into the scan room and positioned comfortably for the scan. During the MRI the scanner makes a variety of sounds, a pair of neonatal mini ear defenders will be placed over your baby’s ears to reduce the sound from the MRI scanner .If you have any questions regarding the preparation please contact the MRI department where your baby’s appointment has been made the success of the fast feed and wrap technique is reliant on following the preparation

The MRI scan can take up to 45 minutes; this includes positioning and settling your baby. Your baby will need to be completely still in the scanner for the images to be clear. In some cases the scan may not be successful if the baby does not settle, despite everyone’s best efforts.

The scan may need to be rebooked under general anaesthetic. This will be the decision of your referring clinician.

Do I get the results straight away?

An MRI takes several hours for the radiologist to review and create a report. This is why results are not ready on the day and they are sent directly to your Doctor electronically.

Results cannot be given over the phone by clerical staff.

Contact

Phone

Enquiries: (08) 8161 6639
Appointments: (08) 8161 7447 (Monday – Friday, 8:30am – 5:00pm)

Email

HealthWCHMRIAdmin@sa.gov.au

Fax

(08) 8161 6333