A new ‘bedtime’ MRI scanning service for young children is reducing the need for general anaesthetic and dramatically cutting waiting times at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend.

The idea behind the initiative is that children come into hospital at bedtime and are sleepy or even fast asleep when the MRI scan takes place, making the likelihood of the scan being successful far greater.
Ordinarily, if they are too young to keep completely still, children are given a general anaesthetic in order to receive a MRI scan. This requires more staff resources, including an anaesthetist, as well additional time on the children’s ward for the child following the scan.

MRI Superintendent Radiographer Sharon Donovan explained: “It is always very difficult to perform an MRI scan on a small child because it is imperative that they remain absolutely still in order for the scan to be of good diagnostic quality. This is almost impossible for a small child without the use of general anaesthetic.

“Before we introduced this bedtime list, we were only able to schedule two paediatric MRI scans under general anaesthetic each month, so the waiting list was long, causing additional delay and worry time for families. Now we can scan up to four children in an evening session without general anaesthetic, so the reduction in waiting times is noticeable.”

Accompanied by their family, children arrive at the hospital, wearing their pyjamas, and are made comfortable in a room with low lighting. They are then encouraged to follow their usual bedtime ritual and settle into bed.

Many children will fall asleep before being taken into the MRI room for scanning.

“We have been amazed at how relaxed both the children and the families are when we approach the procedure in this way,” said Sharon. “So many of our children have slept all the way through the scan which is always surprising as it’s so noisy!”

Following the process, children are presented with a certificate, chocolates and stickers and many of them are keen for a return visit.
Hollie Pettit’s 18 month old son Harrie received an MRI scan after being placed on the bedtime list.

Hollie, who is from Bridgend, said: “Harrie was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at six months old. We originally thought that we would have to wait until he was two and a half for his second MRI (his first was at one week old) because of the need for, and the risks associated with, a general anaesthetic.

“We were extremely happy to be invited for a bedtime scan without anaesthetic just before Harrie’s first birthday. The fact we could have the MRI done sooner and without the risk of anaesthetic was a big relief. Harrie slept throughout the time he was having the MRI, so he obviously was not bothered by the noise and everything going on. The radiographers and doctors were so lovely and reassuring.”

The success of the bedtime list has been realised thanks to an overall radiology team effort instigated by Dr Gareth Tudor, Consultant Radiologist. It is hoped that the concept will be rolled out across Cwm Taf Morgannwg UHB’s other hospital sites.

Bedtime MRI scans for children cut waiting times and anxiety levels