Preparing for a Sedated MRI

If your child needs an MRI, your physician may determine due to age or developmental level a sedated MRI would provide a better image. Many children cannot remain still for an MRI and require medication to help them relax or sleep during the procedure.

We provide these guidelines to help you better prepare yourself and your child for the sedated MRI procedure.

Prior to arrival

  • About two days before your child’s MRI, a nurse practitioner will call you to explain how to prepare for the procedure, including when to stop eating and drinking prior to the MRI.
  • Please arrange for someone to keep other children. Only two adult caregivers may be with your child in the holding and recovery rooms.
  • Leave any jewelry and hair clips at home. No metal objects are allowed in the MRI room.

Arrival instructions

  • Arrive on time for your appointment. If you are late, we may need to reschedule. Give yourself plenty of time to get from your car to the check-in area.
  • Park in the South Garage, located on Children’s Way, next to Children’s Hospital. Take advantage of our valet parking service. Both are free of charge. Watch for signs that will direct you.
  • Once you have parked, locate the sky bridge on the second floor of the garage. Walk across the bridge to the hospital entrance. Then head down the grand staircase or elevator to the first floor. Diagnostic Imaging is next to the main entrance, to the right of the grand staircase.
  • Check in using the kiosk, a flat touch-screen monitor next to the Diagnostic Imaging front desk. You and your child will each receive a band to wear on your wrist. Wear them until you leave the hospital.
  • When it is time for your child’s appointment, a nurse will call your child’s last name and meet you in the lobby, check your wristbands and walk you to the holding room.

Before the procedure 

  • A nurse will bring your child a hospital gown to change into for the procedure, and then take basic vital signs such as weight, blood pressure, pulse and temperature.
  • You’ll also be asked questions to determine if there have been any changes in your child’s physical condition since the phone call from the nurse practitioner.
  • During your wait in the holding room, you will meet many of the people who will care for your child and perform the MRI service. Two nurses will be on duty. One will help your child prepare for the MRI procedure, and the other will help your child prepare to go home afterward.
  • A child life specialist may be available to help explain to your child what the procedure is like, what to expect and to answer any questions. You may request a child life specialist when you make your appointment or during the phone call with the nurse practitioner.
  • The MRI technologist will review your child’s records with you, explain the type of imaging to be performed, and answer any questions.
  • The anesthesia team will explain the procedure they will use to help your child sleep through the MRI. Anesthesia may be delivered through an IV or via a mask. If an IV is necessary, a nurse will place it in the holding room. The nurse may use a “freezy” spray on your child’s skin to numb it prior to the needle stick. If a mask will deliver the anesthesia, an IV may still be necessary to deliver a chemical called a contrast. This makes more detailed imaging possible. The nurse will place this IV after your child is asleep. A soft cover will be placed on the IV site to protect it while it is not being used.
  • When it is time for the MRI procedure, a nurse will walk or transport your child to the MRI control room.

While you wait

  • There are a few activities in the lobby and holding room to keep your child occupied while you wait for your appointment.
  • Bring small items from home as well. Any toys or comfort items brought into the holding room for the appointment must be free of metal.

After the procedure

  • A staff member will accompany you back to the waiting area. You’re free at this time to visit the food and gift shops on the second floor. An MRI can take 30 minutes or more beyond the estimated time you may be given.
  • In the MRI control room, a technician will scan your child painlessly with a metal detector.
  • A staff member will accompany your child into the MRI room to help him or her get comfortable on the scanning bed.
  • The anesthesia team will then administer medicine through the IV or breathing mask. They will monitor your child carefully during sleep.
  • At the end of the procedure, a nurse will call your cell phone, or call your name in the lobby, to direct you back to the MRI area.
  • A staff member will guide you to the recovery room to see your child. You may bring an additional adult caregiver with you at this time.
  • When your child wakes, we will offer him or her a drink and a snack. When we determine it is safe for your child to go home, a nurse will remove the IV. You will then have time to help your child dress for the trip home.
  • A staff member will provide information on caring for your child at home. Ask any questions you may have before leaving the recovery room. We will transport your child via wheelchair to your car or next appointment. This is necessary because lingering effects from sedation can cause children to feel dizzy or light-headed.
  • The doctor who ordered the MRI will call you with results and a care plan as soon as possible. Please allow 24 to 72 hours for this call.

If you have any questions about the MRI, call Diagnostic Imaging at (615) 343-1842 or discuss them with the nurse practitioner that will call prior to the appointment.

Your Child's Sedated MRI

A step-by-step explanation of what to expect when your child is having a sedated MRI at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. Note that during our construction period through 2019 the grand staircase and main entrance at Children's Way are closed. You can still take the main hospital elevators down to the first floor and check in at the same location shown in the video.