The experience of having an MRI can be daunting for anyone, but is especially frightening for young children, and it's also hard for parents and hospital staff alike to watch and respond to.
As a way of reducing the anxiety of children, Monash Children's Hospital in Melbourne has become the first hospital in the southern hemisphere to use advanced technology to create interactive displays throughout its Diagnostic Imaging Department.
The MRI room is transformed from its clinical state to a theatre featuring soothing coloured lights, sounds and a video to divert patients' attention away from the procedure, made possible thanks to a donation of $2.6 million from a Melbourne family foundation.
According to Professor Michael Ditchfield, the Hospital's Head of Diagnostic Imaging, the aim is to create a child-friendly environment that introduces patients to the technology through play and slowly builds up to the actual MRI.
"It's quite an intimidating experience -- you have to lie still for 30 to 45 minutes...it's hard enough for an adult but to expect a six-year-old to do that is quite a challenge," Ditchfield told The Huffington Post Australia.
"The whole environment is friendly, there's an interactive waiting room with interactive projectors. We also have toy scanners where they can put an animal through the scan -- it really is mesmerising, even for adults."
The department also has a mock MRI unit where patients can practice before their scan so that when the time comes, they know exactly what to expect.
"It sounds great for the patient but from a clinical point of view it is fantastic. If the child is relaxed, the chance of getting a diagnostically correct scan is dramatically improved," Ditchfield said.
Ditchfield also highlighted that in some circumstances, children up to the age of 10 may be put under anaesthetic for an MRI, however there has been success with the technology helping children as young as four have the scan without the need to be anaesthetised.
"When on the scanner, they select an environment, the lighting in the room will coordinate with that projection so it feels like the whole room is part of that environment, while anything clinical that may look scary is locked behind cupboards," he said.
"It's great for the kids but really good for parents as well, if the parent is comfortable then the kid is. It then flows onto the staff, it's a great environment to work in -- it's positive from the family, staff and clinical points of view."
With construction of Monash Children's Hospital now completed, it is expected to open in April and will treat an additional 7000 children every year.