The Mock MRI Program replacing fear with confidence

The Mock MRI Program replacing fear with confidence

Occupational Therapist with eight-year-old CHW patient Zara.

For many children, undergoing an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan can be a daunting experience, particularly if they have never had a medical procedure done before.

Although MRI scans are generally safe and painless, they are highly sensitive to motion. This means that even slight movement can result in unclear images. For children, the loud noises and confinement inside the machine can be overwhelming. To avoid the need for general anaesthesia (GA), it is important for the patient to remain as still as possible during the procedure.

The Mock MRI Program at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead (CHW) was developed by Child Life Therapy (CLT) in collaboration with Medical Imaging and is proudly supported by Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation. It is an educational play-based program which uses a mock MRI scanner to simulate an MRI experience, allowing Child Life Therapists to assess patients’ suitability for non-GA MRI’s and develop personalised care plans for patients to enable clinically diagnostic scans for children without the use of GA.

Sarah Scott, the Co-Head of Department of CLT at CHW says that the benefits of providing a child-friendly explanation of an MRI using developmentally appropriate language and resources in a simulated environment has been multi-faceted.

“The Mock MRI Program has reduced the GA waitlists for MRI procedures and the costs associated with GA MRI’s and subsequently inpatient stays, improved time to diagnosis and decreased patient and family stress and anxiety with a 94% success rate for children aged between 4 and 8 years.”

Zara is an eight-year-old patient who was admitted to CHW last year having had repeated syncope episodes. During an electroencephalogram (EEG), abnormalities were discovered in her brain activity and an MRI was required to investigate the cause.

When Stacey, Zara’s mum, was told that her daughter required an MRI, she knew it would not be without its challenges. Zara had never had an MRI before and was unsure of what to expect.

“Child Life Therapists prepared Zara on what to expect during a real MRI - what the machine looked like, how it would feel and sound. She thoroughly enjoyed the mock MRI experience. She returned to the ward with the biggest smile,” Stacey said.

Stacey says that the Mock MRI Program helped alleviate Zara’s fears and make her experience of an MRI more comfortable.

“It gave Zara the skills she needed to undergo a real MRI successfully without the need for GA, which was a huge relief as it meant we were able to get answers regarding her health quicker. She confidently walked in and told the radiologist her needs of blankets, sandbags, and a ball to hold. She even requested a movie to watch and what colour she wanted the room to be.”

On average, 200 patients benefit from the use of the Mock MRI Program at CHW each year, through 12 hours of operation each week.

To ensure the program’s continuation and growth, Sarah says fundraising is essential.

“It is with the generous support of donors that we can elevate patient care by increasing the number of patients seen. This has the added bonus of decreasing costs and developing resources within this collaborative service.”

Stacey adding that the positive impact that the program had during their time of need was unmeasurable.

“The care that was provided during this vulnerable time was like no other. I hope that all children and parents faced with the prospect of an MRI have this opportunity to replace their fear with confidence.”