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This Toy MRI Helps Children Prepare for Imaging Scans

The thought of undergoing a MRI or CT-scan can be a source of anxiety and confusion for everyone, especially children. That’s why the University of California San Francisco’s Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging has introduced the KittenScanner, a miniature-sized version of a CAT scanner that young patients can interact with in the pediatric waiting room.

The KittenScanner features four adorable and plush patients: an elephant, a robot, an alligator, and a chicken. Each character has their own backstory; for example, the elephant is sick from a fish swimming in its belly. By placing the elephant on the scanner, children can examine the elephant’s fish-ridden stomach. Children are invited to bring the toys into the their own exams as a form of emotional support.

Through playing with the KittenScanner, children can gain an understanding of why it’s important to remain stationary during the imaging exam. By staying still, there’s less of need to conduct multiple scans or administer sedatives.

Designed by Philips, the KittenScanner is easy and intuitive to use. “There are no buttons to press; placing the toy in the scanner automatically activates it,” said Alex Tan, Philips Creative Director. “By putting toys through this mock procedure they can relax and take their minds off why they are there, yet at the same time there are actually learning."

The concept is a part of UCSF’s initiative to create an “Ambient Experience” throughout the facility. Scan suites feature large-scale murals, soft music, and sound effects and “moving images projected on the inside of the machine” that are intended to de-escalate those suffering from “scanxiety.”

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Comment by Bruce K. Browning on October 3, 2017 at 10:10am
Hi Julie, a magnificent idea.

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