Sedation During MRIs

Will My Child Need to be Sedated?

Some children cannot remain still for an MRI scan and require medication to help them relax or sleep during the procedure.

Several factors are considered when determining if a child will need sedation, including:

  • The age and developmental level of child
  • The length of time it takes to do the procedure
  • The amount of discomfort expected during the procedure

The radiology scheduler uses this information to determine whether sedation is necessary. The physician or practitioner who ordered the child’s test also may request that the child be sedated for the procedure

If your child will require sedation, read more about preparing for your child's sedation procedure.

If the child’s physician did not order sedation but you are concerned that your child may need it during the MRI, please alert the radiology scheduler.

How Will My Child be Sedated?

In the majority of cases sedation is administered via an intravenous (IV) tube. Some infants — those under 2 years of age — occasionally can be sedated with oral medications. The sedation physicians will determine the way the child will be sedated on the day of the MRI. Doctors and nursing staff will administer the sedation medications.

During the MRI

While the child is sedated and the MRI is taking place, he or she will be monitored constantly. Breathing, heart rate, blood-oxygen level and blood pressure will be tracked. In addition, the child will be watched on a camera in the MRI scanner. The nursing staff will report any movement to the doctor, in which case additional sedation may be needed.

The MRI usually lasts 30 to 60 minutes.

Reasons to Use General Anesthesia

In some instances, children with certain medical conditions or characteristics cannot be given sedation medications safely and require general anesthesia. Often this can only be determined after the child is evaluated in person by the physician administering the sedation. When this occurs the sedation team of nurses and doctors will meet with the parent and reschedule the procedure under general anesthesia.

Also, if the child is sick or has cold or flu symptoms, such as cough, runny nose or fever, please call 412-802-6440 and leave a message. The call will be returned within 48 hours. When a child is sick with these symptoms, sedation may not be recommended or safe, and the child’s procedure may need to be rescheduled.