Driscoll’s state-of-the-art MRI suite combines entertainment and technology to help ease patients’ anxiety

CORPUS CHRISTI – Under construction since the spring, the newly renovated magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) suite at Driscoll Children’s Hospital is now fully operational. The state-of-the-art suite could have come from the Starship Enterprise, with its streamlined architecture, new, larger magnet and features that allow patients to choose sights, sounds and even movies while they undergo an MRI.

“Allowing children to control the environment when they may be nervous about a procedure helps them become calmer,” said Ernest Chavez, Driscoll director of Radiology Services.

An MRI is a noninvasive, diagnostic procedure that uses a magnet to obtain detailed images of the internal structure of the body. It typically lasts 45 minutes to an hour.

Among the customizable features in the MRI suite is a projection system that displays moving, child-friendly images on a wall. Patients can choose from a variety of themes, including sky, underwater, jungle, South America and Europe. And each theme is paired with a color that illuminates the room via an ambient lighting system. If a child doesn’t want a projection theme, they can choose the color of the lighting, or to have alternating colors. The lighting and projection can be programmed on a wall-mounted keypad when the patient arrives in the MRI suite or beforehand on a tablet.

A 32-inch, flat-screen TV in the room also allows patients to watch their favorite movie. They can bring their own DVD or pick one that is available in the suite, such as “Cars,” “Ice Age,” “Tangled” and “Iron Man.” Children hear the movie through headphones. If they opt not to watch a movie, they can listen to music on their own CD or one that is on hand, like Taylor Swift or One Direction.

The renovation also includes a new magnet with a 70-centimeter bore, which is 15 centimeters larger than the previous magnet’s. The larger bore size is beneficial in different ways. Patients can more easily see their parents while the MRI is being performed, Driscoll’s technical and medical staff have easier access to the patient, it lessens the potential for claustrophobic feelings, and it can accommodate larger patients.

“Allowing children to control the environment when they may be nervous about a procedure helps them become calmer,” said Ernest Chavez, Driscoll director of Radiology Services.

“With this equipment, an MRI can be a pleasant experience rather than one that may be scary to a child,” said Driscoll radiologist Allister Arnold, MD. “At the same time, procedures can be done more efficiently.”

This year, Driscoll’s Radiology Services installed ambient lighting in its X-ray rooms, and it will also be incorporated in the computed tomography and nuclear medicine rooms. The ultrasound rooms will also be outfitted during future remodeling. Funding for the ambient lighting, including that in the MRI suite, came from Driscoll’s annual Fiesta de los Niños fundraiser.