The information below is about a procedure at the Queensland Children's Hospital and may not apply to other hospitals and health facilities.

An MRI, or ‘Magnetic Resonance Imaging’, is designed to take high quality images of the body. It uses radio waves and a very strong magnetic field to capture small details that help provide a reliable insight into your child’s condition.

Why does my child need an MRI?

Your child may need an MRI scan for many different reasons, for example, to:

  • look at the structure or function of different body parts
  • check for signs of disease
  • help with planning before an operation
  • help plan follow-up treatment after a procedure.

Before the MRI

Mock MRI

A mock MRI is designed to help prepare children and adults for real scan conditions. It helps your child become familiar with the environment and the process and learn to cope through play. It can also help avoid the need for a general anaesthetic. We may consider preparing your child for a mock MRI if:

  • they need a simple MRI scan
  • they are at least 4 years old.

The mock MRI looks like a real machine. It addresses the noises of the machine, the movement of the table and the equipment used during the test.


The MRI department can be a busy place. We will ask you to arrive at Medical Imaging Reception on Level 1 at least an hour before your child’s scan to complete the necessary preparations. Our scans are between 20 minutes and 2 hours long depending on the type of scan needed, so we want to make sure you keep your allotted time.

If you are unable to attend your appointment, please ring our bookings department (3068 3070 or 3068 3074) so we can rebook your appointment. Calling us in advance to let us know you can’t attend will give another patient the chance to use your slot.

Checking in

Before your child’s scan, they will:

  • have their height and weight measured
  • remove all metal objects from their body (including jewellery, hair clips, removable dental plates, hearing aids, glasses, glucose monitors, insulin pumps etc.).
  • get changed into a hospital gown or pyjamas.

Clothing and undergarments should be checked for any kind of metallic thread, sprays, or particles. If metallic fabrics are worn into the MRI machine, the quality of the scan will be affected. It can also cause a heating safety risk.

All items in pockets and bags will be placed in a locker prior to entry. Both you and your child will be safety screened.


The MRI machine room has a very strong magnetic field which is always switched on. It is why we take safety very seriously. Before you and your child can go into the MRI examination room, you will need to complete an MRI Safety Questionnaire. It is very important that you answer the questions as accurately as possible.

If you or your child have any metal implants, please notify us of the brand and name before you come to the hospital. This allows the radiographers to check the MRI safety requirements of each implant before your appointment.

Implants requiring advanced notice include:

  • Cardiac implants, including defibrillators and pacemakers
  • Cochlear implants
  • Vascular clips and coils, including aneurysm clips
  • Baclofen pumps
  • Vagal Nerve Stimulators
  • Programmable VP shunts and current setting.

Anyone with metallic foreign bodies in their eye, such as metal shavings, will not be allowed in the scan room.

Siblings are not permitted in the scan room, and pregnant mothers must sit in the waiting room during the scan.

There are no child-minding services currently available in the Medical Imaging Department. However, you can contact Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Starlight Foundation about the child minding and entertainment services offered at their KidZone areas on Level 6. Please Note that age limits do apply, and they can have limited operational hours.

During the MRI

The MRI machine looks like a large doughnut with a bed that travels into the middle. It can be noisy whilst taking each image, so we provide headphones or earplugs that can help your child feel more relaxed. Once they are inside, your child can also choose to watch a movie during their scan.

One parent or carer may be allowed to stay with them while the scan takes place. But if your child is having their MRI without a parent or carer in the room, they won’t be alone. The MRI radiographer will be able to see your child and talk with them through a microphone throughout the scan. Your child can also have a buzzer to alert the radiographer of any issues.

It is important for the outcome of the MRI that your child lies very still. Foam cushions, sandbags and soft straps may be used to help make it easier for them to stay still and in position during their scan.

If your child has difficulty staying still for small periods of time, they may need to have a general anaesthetic.


Some children need to have a contrast injected during their MRI scan. Contrast works like a highlighter by illuminating blood vessels so they can be seen more clearly on the MRI images. It also gives us information about:

  • your child’s blood supply
  • the health of their organs
  • areas of infection and inflammation.

Contrast dye is a clear fluid given through a small intravenous line, or ‘IV’, which is inserted using a small needle into a vein.

If your child needs to have an IV line inserted, we can apply a numbing cream or cooling stick to reduce discomfort. The numbing cream requires at least 20 minutes to work.

After the MRI

Your child will be able to leave straight after their MRI if they have not had contrast or an anaesthetic.

If your child had contrast, they’ll need to be observed for a short period of time after their scan. Reactions to contrast are very rare, but if your child does have reaction our staff will be on hand to manage any concerns.

If your child had anaesthetic for their scan, they will be taken to Recovery and will be observed there until they are cleared to leave.

After your appointment, a specialist Paediatric Radiologist will review your child’s MRI images and create a report. Medical imaging staff won’t be able to provide you with the report directly or on the same day as your test. The report will be sent to your referring doctor, who will contact you to discuss the results.

Key points

  • Arrive at least an hour before your child’s scan to complete the necessary preparations. Our scans can be between 20 minutes and 2 hours long.
  • Complete your MRI Safety Questionnaire as accurately as possible.
  • All metal objects must be removed, including any kind of metallic thread, sprays or particles in clothing and undergarments. Any metal implants must be identified before you come to the hospital.
  • It is important that your child lies very still. If they find it difficult, they may need to have a general anaesthetic.
  • You can contact our MRI bookings team on 3068 3070 or 3068 3074:
    • If you think your child will need extra assistance with an IV cannula i.e. anxiety with the cannula.
    • If you are unable to attend your appointment.
    • If you think your child would benefit from a mock MRI.

For more information


Developed by the Medical Imaging Service, Children’s Health Queensland’s Child and Child Health Service. We acknowledge the input of consumers and carers.

Resource ID: FS396. Reviewed: June 2024.

Disclaimer: This information has been produced by healthcare professionals as a guideline only and is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your child’s doctor or healthcare professionals. Information is updated regularly, so please check you are referring to the most recent version. Seek medical advice, as appropriate, for concerns regarding your child’s health.

Last updated: June 2024