Children's Hospital Colorado

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) at Children’s Hospital Colorado

At Children’s Hospital Colorado, we treat the big things, the small things and everything in between.



Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) offers valuable information about your child’s organs and other internal structures, helping us make an accurate diagnosis. Doctors at Children’s Hospital Colorado may order an MRI to pinpoint the cause of your child’s medical condition.

What is pediatric magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a type of imaging used to see many different parts of the body — from the pinky toe to the brain. MRI machines look somewhat like a CT (CAT) scan machine, but use a magnetic field and radio waves to create the images.

MRIs are valuable in diagnosing a variety of conditions, and we sometimes perform them along with other diagnostic procedures. Your child’s doctor will recommend the best approach for your child’s unique needs.

Are MRIs safe for kids?

MRI images use radio magnetic waves. MRI machines do not emit radiation, which makes them ideal for pediatric imaging. No side effects have been reported from being exposed to radio magnetic waves.

Types of MRIs

We are experts in some of the most specialized MRI exams in the world, including:

We offer MRIs with two different scanners: 1.5 Tesla and 3 Tesla (also known as 1.5T and 3T MRI).

How should I prepare for my child for a pediatric MRI?

  • Take time to talk with your child and explain the test.
  • Reassure your child that they’ll be safe and comfortable.
  • You may want to bring a comfort item like a stuffed animal, toy or blanket.

What to expect during your child’s MRI

It’s normal for your child to feel nervous about getting an MRI, but knowing what to expect can help. You’ll generally follow these steps for an MRI at Children’s Colorado:

Check in to the hospital

  • For a sedated MRI, arrive 1 hour and 15 minutes before the procedure. (Please see below for more information about sedation.)
  • For a non-sedated MRI, please arrive 45 minutes before the procedure.
  • Bring a list of your child’s medicines and insurance card.
  • We give your child an identification bracelet to ensure they get the right test.
  • A nurse and child life specialist will speak with you and your child about the test and answer any questions.
  • If your child is having another test, such as a contrast enema test, we explain each part of the procedure.
  • You’ll fill out paperwork and sign a consent form.

Prepare for the MRI

  • Your child changes into a gown. If you’d like to join your child for the test, you’ll also wear a gown.
  • You’ll remove any metal accessories that could interfere with the magnets in the MRI machine.
  • You’ll also leave electronics in the changing room locker.

Receive sedation or anesthesia, if needed

We make every effort to help your child feel comfortable without using anesthesia or sedation by offering:

  • Child life specialists who help prepare children beforehand with toys and other aids
  • Pediatric nurses and technologists who guide your child through every aspect of the exam
  • An ambient MRI suite designed with welcoming colors and animated projections (available at our Anschutz Medical Campus and South Campus)
  • A DVD system that allows children to watch a movie during their exam (available at our Anschutz, North Campus and in Colorado Springs)
  • A two-way audio and TV communication system so your child can communicate throughout the exam

However, some children can’t stay still for an MRI. They need sedation or anesthesia to help them relax or sleep during the procedure. We consider factors like your child’s age and size, along with the length of the MRI, when giving sedation. We’ll discuss this with you in advance of your child’s procedure.

Take the MRI test

  • Your child lies down on a table next to a machine (or tunnel) that looks like a big doughnut.
  • An MRI technologist positions your child on the scanning table, then slides the table into the MRI tunnel.
  • Your child will hear whirring, knocking and beeping noises while the images are taken. We provide earplugs and headphones to help with the noises.
  • The technologist takes a series of scans, each lasting a few minutes, while your child lies very still.
  • The MRI usually takes 20–90 minutes, depending on what kinds of images your child’s doctor ordered.

Finish the MRI and return home

When it’s over, the technologist helps your child off the table, and you can leave the hospital.

What to expect after a pediatric MRI

  • If your child had sedation, you’ll wait in a recovery room while it wears off (usually in under an hour).
  • Your child can go back to normal routines and eating habits, unless your doctor recommends otherwise.

If you have any questions and/or concerns, call the ParentSmart Healthline toll free at 1-855-KID-INFO (543-4636). Caring pediatric nurses are available 24/7 to help answer your questions.

Why choose us for a pediatric MRI

Children’s bodies are different from adults’, and those differences shape every part of our care at Children’s Colorado. We use diagnostic tools and methods tailored to kids’ unique needs. We offer:

  • Expertise: Our highly skilled imaging team members care for thousands of children each year. Our team has specialized training and experience in performing MRIs for babies, kids, young adults, as well as fetal imaging for pregnant mothers.
  • Child-friendly procedures: We use child-sized MRI scanners to provide a safer, more comfortable experience. If your child is sedated, our team closely monitors their heartbeat, breathing and oxygen level during the test. Our child life specialists are always on hand to provide emotional support before and during the procedure.
  • Advanced technology: We use sophisticated MRI machines to create precise, detailed images of your child’s body, so we can provide the most appropriate care. Read about exciting new ways we’re using 4D MRI to see the heart.
  • Convenience: We offer radiology, imaging and testing at several of our locations throughout Colorado. You can filter by specialty service, city or zip code to find the test you need closest to home.

Learn more and schedule a pediatric MRI

To schedule an MRI, please call the radiology scheduling line at 720-777-6541.

If you have any questions and/or concerns, call the ParentSmart Healthline toll free at 1-855-KID-INFO (543-4636). Caring pediatric nurses are available 24/7 to help answer your questions.