New MRI at MU\'s Children\'s Hospital designed to relieve anxiety

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COLUMBIA - A new MRI at MU's Children's Hospital looks more like a vacation than a piece of medical equipment.

It is shaped like a sand castle. The room it's in is ringed with plam tree paintings, an ocean floor and beach chairs for parents. 

"It is so much more kid friendly," said Paula Rathz, a certified child life specialist at MU's Children's Hospital. "We have taken something that can be a daunting procedure for the kids and it is now looked at as fun and exciting."

The children wear video goggles, making the machine more like a movie theater. Data collected since they were put into use shows the number of patients needing sedation medication has decreased. 

Hospital officials say the children aren't as worried and are more distracted when they are able to watch a movie. Headphones block out the noise and the goggles mask the confined space, which can be the scariest parts of an MRI scan.

"Once they get here and see it is an actual castle, all of that scary stuff behind the MRI kind of disappears," said Rathz. "And when they realize they get to watch a movie and go inside the castle, it becomes a lot better experience for them. When the test is done they think they are the king or queen of the castle."

To have an MRI, a patient must lie still for up to an hour and a half. Women's and Children's Hospital performs 2,500 to 2,700 MRI scans of children each year.