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Is Simulation Training Better than Anesthesia for Young Patients Before Their MRI?

Simulation training is a viable way to determine if children need to undergo anesthesia before their scheduled MRI, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Children can get squirmy and anxious while undergoing an MRI. The claustrophobia and noise creates a stressful environment for them, which is why physicians typically recommend sedation and general anesthesia to make sure they can successfully complete the procedure. However, new research from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio has found that simulation-based training on MRI experience in children five years and older can eliminate the need to administer anesthesia.

For their study, researchers invited 80 young patients (43 boys and 37 girls) between the ages of 5.5 and 11.5 to participate in a simulation. Most of the participants had suffered from seizures, headaches or bone complications and were due for brain MRIs. The researchers used the Yale Preoperative Anxiety Scale (mYPAS) to determine whether or not they needed anesthesia to undergo an MRI. The training consisted of deep breathing, guided imagery, and explaining the importance of remaining still. Participants also practiced going into the scanner and listening to MRI sounds. All patients tried the MRI without being sedated after the simulation, however 86 percent fully completed the MRI without anesthesia with 14 percent needing the drug to complete the imaging exam.

“The avoidance of general anesthesia (and thus the potential side effects, both medical and behavioral), minimization of wasted anesthesia resources, and more effective and efficient patient scheduling are clear benefits for families and the medical institution to justify effective patient selection for completing MRI examinations without anesthesia or sedation,” write the researchers.

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