Children between 4 and 7 years old often go under anesthesia for an MRI examination which takes between 30 and 60 minutes. It is important for a child to lie completely still then. Children up to 7 years old can’t always do this for various reasons, then anesthesia may be chosen. At the Máxima Center, it was investigated whether, with proper education and practice, a child between 4 and 7 years old might be able to undergo the MRI examination without anesthesia. The conditions under which an MRI exercise program is successful were also investigated.
It was already known from the literature that a dummy MRI with a preparation and exercise program helps children lie still. From January 2022 to January 2023, a pilot study was conducted in the Solid Tumors Department. Clinical psychologist and project leader Laura Beek explains: ‘Child life specialists, a nursing specialist, a pediatric oncologist, a psychologist and staff from the planning department set up a work process. For each child who is to undergo an MRI, the ability to use the practice MRI is assessed. A total of 38 children between the ages of 4 and 7 participated in the pilot. Of these, 21 children (72%) needed one practice session to undergo the next MRI without anesthesia.'
During a practice session, children receive explanation and guidance about the procedure of an MRI, this preparation is adapted to the child's level and pace. The children experience what it is like to undergo an MRI awake. This makes the situation more predictable and the child experiences less anxiety and stress. Laura Beek: ‘Most children enjoy practicing, they know what to expect and better understand why it is necessary for them to lie still. If it works then a child does not have to go under anesthesia and that is a success experience for the child. Parents were also very pleased with the practice session.'
Laura Beek looks back on the pilot study with satisfaction because the results are very positive: ‘Based on these results, we will encourage children in follow-up (finished treatment) who undergo an MRI and are between 4 and 7 years old to use the practice MRI. It offers so many advantages: a child does not have to be admitted to the day care or be on an empty belly for anesthesia. And the less anesthesia, the better for the child.' A new pilot is currently underway; the use of the practice MRI during treatment.
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