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Published on September 03, 2014

New Sand Castle MRI at MU Children's Hospital Relieves Anxiety and Worry in Young Patients

COLUMBIA, Mo. — When children walk into the MRI radiology area at Women’s and Children’s Hospital, their eyes open wide and they often crack a smile. The hospital has transformed the MRI procedure into a beach vacation.

“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.”

Shaped like a sand castle, the MRI machine is different from traditional MRI machines.

But it is more than just a sand castle. The area is filled with palm tree paintings, an ocean floor and beach chairs for the parents. While most of the patients are children, adults also benefit from the relaxing atmosphere.

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.”

The children are given special video goggles that make it appear as if they are in a movie theater. Headphones block out the noise and the goggles mask the confined space, which can be the scariest parts of an MRI scan.

Women’s and Children’s Hospital performs 2,500 to 2,700 MRI scans of children each year. To have an MRI, a patient must lie still for up to an hour and a half. MU Children’s Hospital received the video goggles earlier in the year. Data collected since then shows the number of patients needing sedation medication has decreased because the children aren’t as worried and distracted when they are able to watch a movie. The goggles were bought through a $44,000 donation from more than a dozen members of the Missouri Credit Union Association Central Chapter.