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MRI goggles ease claustrophobic experience for kids

March 14, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Imagine being stuck inside a tight confined, cylinder-shaped machine for up to an hour with your face just inches from the capsule. In MRI medical-imaging tests, if you don't stay still, you'll have to do it all over again. Imagine explaining that to a 10-year-old. Now new technology is making this once-dreaded trip through an MRI machine actually fun.

Luke Sheldon, 13, spends his free time practicing for the big screen.

"I really want to be an actor," said Luke. "I don't know if it comes naturally, but it just feels great to be on stage."

But it's a small screen that's got him and his brother talking.

"I just told him they have these goggles that project like you're in a movie theater," said Luke.

"I was going to go in two more weeks. I was really excited," said Luke's brother, 11-year-old Josh.

The boys are two of the newest patients to try out the MRI movie goggles, an alternative to sedation. Both boys have the spinal condition spina bifida occulta. In the past, they took medication to help them stay still during an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging).

The meds are a popular option for people who would otherwise have to hear this while inside the machine.

Luke couldn't take it.

"He just had a reaction, you know, he cried and carried on," said Dawn Sheldon, Luke's mother. "He said I was a bad mother. It was horrible, absolutely horrible."

But this system, complete with headphones and goggles, shuts out the noise and allows kids to watch DVDs during the procedure.

"For a CAT scan, for example, where radiation is involved we want to do this once and be done," said Dr. Alex Daneshmand, a pediatric physician with The Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida.

"We've had as young as 4- and 5-year-olds use the goggles, which is pretty amazing for them to hold still for sometimes 20-minute exams, up to an hour, hour and a half," said Registered Nurse Heather Haddock.

The new device saves time and avoids repeat tests, while making a routine procedure something to look forward to.

Since using the goggles, some specialists say they've seen the number of children completing their scans without sedation double. Some hospitals also offer the movie goggles to adults.


BACKGROUND: It has been a recurring problem for younger children and sometimes adults to sit still long enough for a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). An MRI test usually takes 30 to 60 minutes but can take as long as two hours. When a patient is receiving an MRI they are strapped by their arms, chest, and head on the table that pushes them into a cylinder barely big enough for them to fit through. For some patients this might result in feeling claustrophobic, thus sedatives are given. To avoid the use of sedatives in younger patients where the use is most common, CinemaVision Virtual Reality MRI headset was created. CinemaVision Virtual Reality MRI headset is a 3-D virtual reality system providing multiple entertainment possibilities for the patient.

WHAT ALL IS INCLUDED IN THE SYSTEM: The CinemaVision Virtual Reality MRI headset includes:

  • MRI video goggles and audio headset
  • DVD/TV player controller
  • MRI technologist remote control
  • MRI technologist camera for positive 2-way communication

The MRI video goggles and audio headset offers images similar to a high-resolution 62-inch screen that is 5 feet away. The head-mount fits completely within the head coil and operates inside the magnet bore with no detrimental effects on the magnet inside the MRI machine. The DVD/TV player controller offers the patient a choice in entertainment. They can choose from any available television show or DVD. Since the audio set is attached to the goggles an input is also available for CD's and AM/FM radio. The system provides 2-way communications: the tech camera allows the patient to be able to see the technologist when they are talking to them and the remote allows the patient to hear what the technologist is saying.

BENEFITS OF CINEMAVISION VIRTUAL REALITY: The system has benefits for both the patient and the doctor. For the patient, it helps to reduce the number of overall child sedations, which is a key concern to parents, and it of course provides 3-D entertainment. For the doctor, it helps to reduce the number of scans lost due to patients becoming claustrophobic. It can also increase the number of MRI's performed a day by making them more enjoyable so patients don't cancel. The list price is $44,000, but hospitals save the money by decreasing the number of failed MRI's.

A SUCCESS STORY: The system was installed in the MRI at Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida in August 2011. The number of children to complete their scans without sedation doubled at the Children's Hospital in Fort Myers.

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