An MRI can be an intimidating, scary experience for both children and their parents, but staff creativity combined with new technology is helping to alleviate patient anxiety at Akron Children’s Hospital.
The radiology department at our Beeghly campus recently installed an MRI scanner with a wide bore to make it less claustrophobic and “quiet suite” software to reduce noise by up to 97 percent. Both elements help provide for calmer patients. And the more a patient can lie still during a scan, the better quality images the radiologist has to make diagnoses.
“An MRI enables us to see tissue that doesn’t appear in other tests,” said Larry Kobus, Akron Children’s staff technologist. “Our new machine is faster and the image quality is very good. It can do 160 pictures in a 4-minute time frame. But if the patient moves it causes the image to be blurry and affects what the doctor sees.”
Fourteen-year-old Leon Daugherty from East Liverpool has personally experienced a variety of techniques the staff uses to help pediatric patients feel comfortable during scans. He’s been getting regular MRIs at Akron Children’s for 5 years after developing a brain tumor at age 9.
“You’d think it was an alarm going off,” Leon said of his first experience, before the sound dampener was added. “Now I just put on my headphones, listen to music and take a nap.”
Leon’s scans take between 1.5 and 2 hours to complete now.
“My first time it took 5½ hours (to complete the MRI sequences),” Leon said. “I was 9 and didn’t realize I had to stay still. This new machine is a lot nicer, it’s quieter and has a fan built in.”
It’s not just the technology improving patient compliance, but a holistic approach the radiology staff takes to provide comfort and minimize the use of sedation.
“We’re unique in that we cater to the needs of children in what can be a challenging endeavor, so we take some creative approaches to calming them before a scan,” said Jennifer Lohry, supervisor of radiology and outpatient lab, Akron Children’s Mahoning Valley.
Methods include creatively timing infants’ feeding and nap schedules to their radiology appointments, as well as music therapy and play therapy. Parents and caregivers are also generally able to stay close to their children in most cases.
“Leon was very afraid the first few times, but right from the first appointment they make you feel at home,” said Diane Goodwin, Leon’s grandmother.
She credits Kobus, his MRI tech, for taking such interest and ownership in his care. “They go out of their way to make you comfortable, and we never really felt like we were in the ‘doctor’s office.’ It’s more of a family environment.”
Leon now also helps calm scared patients.
“He helps the other kids now,” his grandmother said. “He’ll see a child crying and go over and calm him. He remembers what it was like at first. I’ve seen him take a child by the hand and take him back with the nurse and offer to get a shot right alongside him.”