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Products and preparation help lower sedation in pediatric imaging

by Lisa Chamoff, Contributing Reporter | April 13, 2020
Jungle MR from Character Farms at Cook's County Children's
From the April 2020 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

MR scans and other imaging exams can be an anxious experience, even for the bravest adult. For a child, who is likely struggling to navigate the reason for the scan, it can be a traumatic experience.

At the same time, healthcare facilities are working to decrease the use of sedation to help keep children still during the procedures.

Many hospitals and imaging centers have been successfully decreasing sedation rates and reducing the need for repeated exams using innovative products and the expertise of child life specialists.

Overcoming the ‘fear of the unknown’
At Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian, children are prepared for imaging exams ahead of time.

In a study published last September in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, Weill Cornell Imaging at NewYork-Presbyterian decreased sedation rates for outpatient pediatric MRs by 5.6% for patients between ages 4 and 15 by implementing the MRI-am-a-Hero program.

The program, which was established in collaboration with Siemens Healthineers and Marvel Custom Solutions, includes a comic book with a story in which Captain America has to undergo an MR exam for his injured shoulder. Children also received a cape, Captain America and Iron Man plush toys, an educational DVD and a mini-model of a Siemens Healthineers MR scanner.

Though Siemens is no longer partnering with Marvel, Weill Cornell Imaging still offers the comic book via PDF on its iPads should a child choose to view the comic prior to imaging.

“For kids, there’s a big fear of the unknown,” said Rachel Cavaliere, pediatric radiology child life specialist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian. “One of the biggest things is to make sure there are no surprises. I do my best to meet with as many kids as I can to assess their needs.”

Cavaliere works with families to determine if there’s been a past medical trauma. Children see a video about what an MR is from a child’s perspective and they also have the opportunity to ask questions.

Children are often more concerned about getting a shot than they are about the exam, so if the patient is receiving an IV with contrast, the child life specialists will prepare by putting IVs in dolls.

They also allow the child to bring in stuffed animals and let them wear special pajamas, Cavaliere said.

When a patient is scheduled for an exam, the imaging center will ask families if they want to participate and the child life specialist will be notified. If the child has a chronic illness, they might not use the preparation each time an exam is needed, though there is no additional cost for the program.

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