Tests and treatments

MRI test under general anaesthetic in children

What is it?

What is it?

The attending physician for your child has requested an MRI test. MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a technique to produce images without the use of X-rays. This test is sometimes also termed MR or NMR. Through the use of a strong magnet and radio waves during the test, images are taken of the body. Through this technique, other soft tissue areas of the body can be visualised too. This includes the brain, spinal cord, intervertebral discs, tendons, muscles and blood vessels.

The MRI test is completely safe and pain free, but very loud. Because the test takes up to 30 minutes and the patient must lie completely still, an MRI is always conducted under general anaesthetic for small children.

What is the process?

What is the process?


  • Your child will need to have fasted before the MRI under general anaesthetic.
    • If your child is breastfeeding, they may feed up to four hours before the scheduled test.
    • If your child uses formula, they may feed up to six hours before the scheduled test.
    • A light breakfast may be eaten up to six hours before the scheduled test.
  • Because the test is performed using a strong magnet, all metal objects must be removed.
    • Dress your child comfortably without metal objects, such as metal zips or buttons.
    • Remove earrings, ear studs and hair pins.
    • Inform the nurse if your child has prostheses or braces.


A member of staff takes your child to the MRI room. Parents are allowed to accompany the child as far as the preparation room. If you wish, and in consultation with the anaesthetist, you can stay with your child until the general anaesthetic. Afterwards, the nurse will take you to the waiting room of the recovery room. The anaesthetist will remain present during the entire test.

Sometimes, an IV drip is required to administer a contrast agent. This is placed once your child is under general anaesthetic. After the procedure, your child is brought to the recovery room under the supervision of the anaesthetist and the anaesthesia nurse to allow them to wake up in their own time. One parent may stay with the child in the recovery room. The anaesthetist decides when your child can be transferred back to the Paediatrics Department.

The procedure will take approximately one to 1.5 hours (from general anaesthetic to return on the Paediatrics Department).

Once your child is back on the Paediatrics Department, he or she is allowed to eat and drink after 30 minutes or once they are properly awake. If they do so without any problems, your child may leave the ward.



We cannot immediately let you know the results of the test. The large amount of images will be processed first and then assessed by the radiologist. The results of the procedure are then forwarded to the attending physician. This takes two working days. Your physician will then discuss the results with you.

Centres and specialist areas

Centres and specialist areas

Latest publication date: 05/02/2021
Supervising author: Dr Degraeuwe Jelle