A tunnel in which you have to lie on your back and still. A chilling metallic noise. While technological progress has improved MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machines in recent years, these machines remain a source of anxiety for patients, especially children. This is why the Bordeaux University Hospital equipped its children’s hospital in March with new premises exclusively dedicated to pediatric imaging.
A signposted route allowing you to follow the mascot Nati, an astronaut red panda, drawings of rockets and planets on the walls… The universe created in this service tries to offer children, and parents, the possibility of relieving stress of the examination, sometimes prescribed in the context of serious pathologies. “The final objective is to facilitate the carrying out of examinations”, sums up Professor Jean-François Chateil, head of the department of radiology and antenatal imaging, for children and women.
“Make the equipment as welcoming as possible”
In a separate room, the child can even benefit from a sort of “dry” exam in a rocket-shaped simulator. “This is our “MRI in play” room: we lay the child on an examination bed, we put a blue hoop on his head which corresponds to the antenna that we will affix to him later, and we simulate the noise of the machine to prepare it, explains Professor Chateil. A camera films the child for two or three minutes, then the film is shown to him, in order to clearly explain to him not to move during the real examination. »
Once “conditioned”, the child can go to the real examination room. Before entering, he selects a video theme at the entrance. Lying in the tunnel, he will be able to entertain himself in front of a film thanks to a screen placed at the back of the device, and which the patient looks at using a mirror above his head. Alternatively, he can listen to music through headphones.
“The machine is the same as for an adult MRI, but we have made sure to make the equipment as welcoming as possible, so that we have favorable atmospheres for the examination, which lasts between 20 minutes and a hour, “said Professor Chateil again.
Between 2,500 and 3,000 pediatric examinations per year
“For a little over a month that we have been open, we have had good feedback from families, mainly at the local level, continues the head of service. We are calmer and everyone is more relaxed than before, when the pediatric MRI was arranged in the middle of the adult MRIs in a vast hubbub. »
The CHU of Bordeaux carries out between 2,500 and 3,000 pediatric examinations per year, “figure which includes antenatal MRIs” specifies the doctor. This new machine “will enable us to increase our possibilities by 30 to 40%. From ten to twelve patients per day, it should gradually increase to sixteen patients. However, this will not be without staffing problems, in a service that is already under pressure.
The best performing exam to look at the brain
The delays in obtaining an MRI examination for children “are around a month and a half to three months for routine examinations, knowing that we pass on more serious conditions, in particular in neurology and oncology, urgently, continues Professor Chateil. MRI remains the most efficient examination for looking at the brain, so we have a large share of neurological pathologies, and besides that, we also carry out examinations for tumours, pathologies of the digestive system, and even lung exploration. »
The MRI is sized to visualize the “soft tissues”, from the brain to the muscles via the tendons.