Montreal's MRI simulator is helping kids avoid sedation

North America’s first MRI simulator—a downsized model of the clunky, enclosed scanner clinicians are used to—has been installed in a Montreal hospital. Officials are saying it’s already helping kids wind down and skip anesthesia ahead of their own procedures.

Adults may feel claustrophobic in the massive machines—and Christine Saint-Martin, an imager at Montreal Children’s Hospital, told CTV News children face unique challenges of their own.

“Between 4 and 6 (years of age), we know it’s very difficult to do an MRI with no sedation,” she told CTV News. “[T]he parents, when they come for anesthesia, they have to spend the whole day with the kids. So this way, they lose a day of work.”

But after her hospital acquired the $50,000 MRI simulator, which is shaped like a rocketship and painted with bright, primary colors, Saint-Martin and colleagues saw a quick difference. During the practice session, an imaging tech has the child lay down in the simulator and talks them through what to expect—including the level of noise. After practice, the child is guided to their exam, where the actual MRI machine has been painted to resemble the simulator.

Of children who have used the simulator in the past 14 months, 74 percent were able to forgo sedation.

“The kids seem to like them,” Josee Melancon, the hospital’s MRI coordinator, told CTV News. “It’s a big toy. It gives us time to play with the kids, too.”

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