MRI Information For Parents


What is a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan?

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is a type of test that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to created detailed images of organs, tissues, bone, and blood vessels in the body. The "camera" is a large "tube" that contains a magnet. You will lay on a "bed" that goes into the tube for the pictures but will not touch you. The MRI makes loud knocking and banging noises while the pictures are being taken, but nothing will touch you.

Why is my child having a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan?

An MRI is done to help diagnose and treat different medical conditions.

Test Details

How long will my child's magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan take?

An MRI can last 20 minutes or several hours. It depends on what part of the body is being scanned.

What preparation is needed for a pediatric magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan ?

Young children (typically under 8 years) need anesthesia to complete an MRI because they must remain completely still for a long period of time. This means that your child must not eat anything for a certain amount of time before having anesthesia. The imaging nurses will give you instructions before your appointment. Parents are able to stay with the child who is getting ready for the MRI. If your child requires anesthesia and is older than 12 months, one parent may remain while anesthesia is started if the anesthesiologist allows.

Patients who are having magnetic resonance (MR) enterography scans, abdominal MRIs, and pelvic MRIs cannot eat for 6 hours prior to their scans. If the MRI is done without anesthesia, and is not one of these three types of test studies, you are able to eat prior to your scan.

What happens during a pediatric magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan?

  • You may meet with a child life specialist who will explain what will happen when your child goes in for an MRI.
  • You will need to fill out a screening form to ensure that your child has no metal in his or her body. (Metal would be affected by the MRI.)
  • Street clothes cannot be worn in the MRI room. Your child will change into a hospital gown or outfit, and he or she will be asked to use the bathroom before the scan.
  • Your child might be able to listen to a movie or music with headphones during the scan. Or, your child can get earplugs to lessen the noise of the scan.
  • The MRI technologist will use a metal detector wand to make sure there is no metal before entering the MRI room.
  • Your child will enter the room and will be asked to lie on his/her back on the "bed.” The technologist will help your child get into the right spot/position.
  • Depending on the part of the body being scanned, something called a "coil,” like a helmet or a pad, may be placed over the area being scanned. This helps the MRI take the pictures.
  • The technologist will move your child into the tube so pictures may be taken.

What happens after the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan?

  • After the scan, your child will be able to change back into street clothes.
  • Your child may eat and drink normally.
  • The results will be sent to your doctor.

Additional Details

What can I do to help put my child more at ease during this magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan?

At the hospital:

  • You can look up MRI pictures and sounds on the Internet to show your child so he or she knows what to expect.
  • You and your child can practice lying still. This will help your child to feel more comfortable when he or she is asked to do this during the scan.

At the hospital:

  • A parent or another trusted adult can go with a child for the MRI as long as the test is being done without anesthesia. The adult must first fill out a screening form and change into a gown.
  • Remember, your presence is a comfort to your child. Please try to plan for alternate care for siblings on the day of the scan.
  • Pregnant mothers are unable to stay in the room. Please arrange for another trusted comforting adult to be with your child during the test.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/01/2019.


  • Expert knowledge and experience of healthcare providers at Cleveland Clinic
  • American College of Radiology. Radiological Society of North America. Children's (Pediatric) Magnetic Resonance Imaging. ( Accessed 4/2/2019.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy