MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

MRIs are available at Texas Medical Center West Tower (Level 18), Legacy Tower (Level 5 and 20), Texas Children's Hospital- West Campus, and Texas Children's Hospital- The Woodlands. If you have questions or want to make an appointment, call 832-824-9729. An order from your doctor is needed to make an appointment.

What is an MRI?

MRI uses a large magnet, radio waves and computer to make clear and detailed pictures of the inside of the body. MRI is painless, does not use radiation and has few known side effects. The MRI unit is a large cylinder-shaped tube surrounded by a circular magnet. Your child will lie on a moveable examination table that slides into the center of the magnet. MRI provides valuable information that can help doctors determine if your child has certain diseases or the extent of an injury. 

MRIs are useful to examine:

  • Organs inside the chest and abdomen, including the heart, liver and kidneys
  • Organs in the pelvis, such as the bladder
  • Blood vessels
  • Lymph nodes

Texas Children’s offers motion correction for some testing sequences for children who have difficultly remaining still, which may help reduce the need for sedation.

MRI Machine

How do I prepare my child for an MRI?

During an MRI, the child must hold completely still. Girls 6 years and above and boys 8 years and above (who are developmentally typical) will be scheduled without sedation. If you have a child who is anxious or if you are unsure if they will require sedation to complete their MRI, they may benefit from our MRI mock scanner.

MRI Mock Scanner

MRI mock scanners look and sound like a real scanner but on a smaller scale. It has a bed that patients can lie on and travel into a tunnel similar to a real scanner. The MRI scanner makes loud noises while the pictures are being taken. The mock scanner simulates those noises and prepares a child for what to expect. Allowing a child to practice their scan before they enter the real scanner helps them better understand their role (to lie still) and become more comfortable with something that is unfamiliar to them. A certified child life specialist or nurse will set up the mock scan and walk your child through the process, if needed, before their scan. A generous donation from the Cook Family of Houston has made this exciting new technology possible. The MRI mock scanner is currently available in the Texas Medical Center Campus and coming soon to the West Campus. Please contact Radiology Nursing at 832-826-5371 to discuss scheduling an appointment.

Texas Children's Mock MRI Simulator FAQ

When the scheduler calls to make your appointment, be sure to tell her if your child has any of the following:

  • A pacemaker or artificial heart valve
  • Metal plates, pins or implants
  • Dental appliances, such as spacers or retainers
  • Ear implants
  • Electrical devices, such as vagal nerve stimulators or baclofen pumps

Bring all information you have about any medically implanted device to the MRI appointment.

During an MRI, the child must hold completely still. Girls 6 years and above and boys 8 years and above (who are developmentally typical) will be scheduled without sedation. If your child has had an MRI without sedation, or you believe your child can do the procedure without sedation, contact Radiology Nursing at 832-822-5375 to discuss scheduling the MRI without sedation.

If your child will have sedation, print out and complete this form (En Español). Bring it to the appointment.

There may be special rules about preparing for the test your child will have. Be sure to write down and follow any directions you are given when you set up the appointment. If you forget, call us at 832-TC4-XRAY (832-824-9729). 

Learn more about preparing your child for an MRI (En Español).

The day of the test:

  • Follow any instructions about what your child can eat or drink
  • Dress your child in loose, comfortable clothes that do not contain metal, including snaps, zippers or glitter
  • Leave your child’s jewelry at home
  • Let your child bring a favorite item, like a blanket or stuffed animal, to help him relax

If your child is going to have anesthesia but has a cold or respiratory tract infection, call 832-TC4-XRAY (832-824-9729). The test may need to be rescheduled.

If child will have sedation, you will need to follow certain rules the day of the test.

What happens during an MRI?

Preparing for the test

Please arrive 90 minutes before the appointment.

Because the large magnet in an MRI draws metal to it, certain items cannot enter the MRI room. These include:

  • Jewelry, keys, credit cards and electronics
  • Certain medical implanted devices, such as shunts, pacemakers.

Please tell the staff as soon as you arrive if your child has an implanted medical device.

Before and during the test, a child-life specialist can help your child relax and feel more comfortable by providing coaching and distraction tailored to your child’s developmental level. Sometimes this helps reduce the need for sedation.

Since any movement can make the picture blurry, you child must lie completely still inside the scanner, usually for 15 to 90 minutes. If your child is young or unable to lie still, he may need to be given medicine with an IV (a needle attached to a tiny tube) to help him relax or sleep. This is called sedation or anesthesia.

If your child needs sedation, please allow four hours for the complete MRI process.

Your child will be given contrast medicine during the test. Contrast is a special medicine that helps certain body parts show up better on the image. It may be given as a drink or with an IV. If contrast is given in an IV, your child may notice a warm feeling and a metallic taste. These last only for a few moments. If your child drinks the contrast, it may have a slightly unpleasant taste that fades soon.

If your child needs an IV, a needle will be inserted into your child’s skin to give the medicine. Your child might feel a pinch or a poke when the needle goes into the vein. We have ways to help with the pain if your child needs it.

The test

Your child will be positioned on the moveable MRI table according to the type of scan. Straps or pillows may be used to help your child stay in the correct position. Then the table will move into the scanner’s tunnel. It may feel close, but it will not touch your child.

The scanner makes loud thumping noises while it is taking pictures. It may sound like a shoe in the dryer or a loud beeping noise. Your child will be given earplugs and headphones. In addition, we offer video goggles designed specifically to help MRI patients with noise, claustrophobia and anxiety. Your child can pick a movie to watch or music to listen to during the MRI procedure.

You can go into the MRI room with your child. If your child is sedated, you will be asked to return to the waiting room when your child falls asleep.

If your child receives sedation or anesthesia, you can return to the exam room when the test is over. We will monitor your child closely until he is fully awake. Follow any instructions regarding activity and dietary restrictions.

How do I find out results of the MRI?

The technologist cannot tell you the results of the test. A pediatric radiologist will analyze the images and provide a report of the findings to your child’s doctor. Your child’s doctor will then notify you of the results.

Why choose Texas Children’s?

Texas Children’s Department of Radiology, one of the nation’s largest and most experienced pediatric imaging departments, brings specialized expertise, personalized care and the latest, most-advanced technology to each magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) procedure.

Because we focus only on babies, children and teens, we offer:

  • Special equipment and techniques that ensure accurate and safe MRIs, including:
    • 3T and 1.5T machines
    • Wide-bore 1.5T machine for larger patients
    • fMRI (functional MRI)
  • Board-certified pediatric radiologists and pediatric neuroradiologists
  • Specially trained technicians and support staff
  • A variety of tools to help your child relax during the procedure, including child-life specialists; movies and music; soothing, child-friendly environment