Brain Lab Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) for Pediatric Patients

This information will help you prepare for a brain lab magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK).

An MRI is a procedure that uses strong magnetic fields to produce pictures of the inside of the body. For patients with a brain tumor, a brain lab MRI is used to examine the brain. Your doctor will use the detailed images of your MRI to plan your surgery. The procedure will take about 1 hour.

Throughout this booklet, the words “you” and “your” refer to you or your child.

1 Day Before Your Procedure

A staff member will call you 1 business days before your MRI. He or she will tell you what time you should arrive at the hospital the day of the procedure. If you are having your MRI on a Monday, you will be called on the Friday before. If you do not receive a call by 4:00 pm, please call 212-639-5948.

  • Center for Image-Guided Intervention (CIGI)
    1275 York Avenue (Between East 67th and East 68th Streets)
    C elevator to 2nd floor
  • Pediatric Day Hospital (PDH)
    1275 York Avenue (Between East 67th and East 68th Streets)
    B elevator to the 9th floor
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The Day of Your Procedure

If your neurosurgeon told you that you would receive anesthesia (medication to make you sleepy) while you have your MRI, someone who is 18 years or older must be at the hospital to take you home afterward. You will also need to follow the additional instructions below:

  • Do not eat anything after midnight the night before your procedure.
  • Between midnight and up until 2 hours before your scheduled arrival time, you may drink a total of 8 ounces of clear liquids (see Figure 1). This includes the liquids you will need to swallow any medications you were instructed to take the morning of your procedure. Examples of clear liquids include:
    Figure 1. 8 ounces of clear liquid
    • Clear broth, bouillon, or consommé (no particles of dried food or seasonings)
    • Gelatin, such as Jello®
    • Clear fruit juices with no pulp, such as cranberry, grape, or apple
    • Soda, such as 7-Up®, Sprite®, ginger ale, seltzer, or Gatorade®
    • Coffee or tea, without milk or cream
  • Starting 2 hours before your scheduled arrival time, do not drink anything, including water. Do not chew gum or suck on any hard candies.
  • Unless you are told otherwise, you can shower and wash your hair, but do not use any products such as hair spray or hair gel.
  • Do not wear anything that is metal. Remove all body piercings and jewelry.
  • Leave valuables, such as credit cards, jewelry, or your checkbook at home.
  • If you usually wear contact lenses, wear your glasses instead. Remember to bring a case for them.
  • If you are getting medication through a patch on your skin, remove the patch before entering the MRI suite. This is because any metal on the patch can heat up and cause burns during an MRI. Many patches have metal, so it is our policy that any patch must be removed for your safety. Bring an extra patch with you to put on after your procedure. A fentanyl patch does not need to be removed; it is the only exception to our policy.
  • If you have a programmable ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt, write down the shunt type and setting below. If you do not know this information, ask the doctor who placed your VP shunt to tell you the exact type and setting.

Write down your programmable ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt type and setting below.

What to bring

  • This guide
  • A case for your glasses
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Your Procedure

The MRI machine may affect:

  • Programmable VP shunts
  • Some implants
  • Devices such as pacemakers
  • Metal
  • Medication patches
  • You will fill out a questionnaire about any medical implants or devices you may have. If you have a medical implant or device, ask your doctor to tell you the exact type and manufacturer. The manufacturer can tell you if it is safe for you to have an MRI. If you’re not sure, you may be able to find out by going to the manufacturer’s website. Because there are so many different implants and devices, it’s important that you get this information before you arrive for your appointment. If you don’t have the information about the safety of your device, you may not be able to have your procedure.
  • You may have an MRI with a liquid substance called contrast media. It will be given to you through an intravenous (IV) line put into a vein in your hand or arm or through a mediport or central line. This contrast media will make it easier to see any disease. If you are going to get contrast media, your doctor or nurse will discuss it with you. If you are a female between the ages of 11 and 55, this discussion will include questions about any chance you might be pregnant.
  • You may be asked to change into a hospital gown before going into the scanning area. You will place your clothes and any metal objects (such as jewelry, coins, or glasses) in a locker. You should also place any credit, ATM, or debit cards in the locker. The MRI magnet will erase the information on the magnetic strip of these cards.
  • Small circular markers called fiducials will be applied to your scalp, forehead, and behind your ears (see Figure 2). These markers will give your doctor a better view of your brain, and will stay in place until your surgery.
    Figure 2. Fiducial markers
  • You will be taken into the scanning room and helped onto the MRI table. The MRI machine is a large, donut-shaped magnet. It makes a loud tapping noise while the scan is in progress. The technologist will ask you if you would like earplugs or earphones to listen to music. When you have been made as comfortable as possible on the MRI table, the technologist will slide it into the magnetic part of the machine. You will be able to speak with the technologist during the entire scan. The images taken during the MRI scan will help your doctor see your brain.
  • It is important to lie still and breathe normally during the scan. The scan itself does not hurt, but lying on the table can be uncomfortable.
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After Your Procedure

  • When your MRI is complete, the scanning table will be moved out of the machine and you will be helped off the table. After you get your belongings, you may leave the MRI suite.
  • The radiologist will send a report to your doctor.
  • Do not shower or wash your hair, apply any hair products such as hair spray or hair gel.
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