Home Health Virtual reality scan to help prepare children for MRI

Virtual reality scan to help prepare children for MRI

22 February 2017
Virtual reality scan to help prepare children for MRI

An app jointly developed by King’s College Hospital and King’s College London helps to prepare children for an MRI scan.

Having an MRI scan can be daunting for a child, but the ‘My MRI at King’s’ app uses panoramic 360 degree videos to allow children to experience what an MRI scan involves before the real thing. The resource can be viewed on a virtual reality headset or explored on a phone or tablet.

The VR technology allows children to feel as though they are inside an MRI scanner and experience what it will be like on the day. Children have the opportunity to get accustomed to the loud tapping noises that happen during the scan (this is the electric current in the scanner coils being turned on and off), as well as learning that they need to keep still for the duration of the scan. For some children, having an MRI can be a frightening experience and some require a general anaesthetic to get through the scan.

The app was developed by Jonathan Ashmore, an MRI physicist at King’s College Hospital, who did all the filming himself and Jerome Di Pietro, Learning Technologist for the Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine at King’s College London.

VR’s an exciting field to be exploring. It’s full of potential. From work and play to education and communication, it’s going to change how we perceive and interact with the world.

Jerome Di Pietro, Learning Technologist

While developing the app, Jonathan Ashmore worked closely with the Play Specialist Team at King’s College Hospital, so that they can use the resource with children before they go in for a scan. He said: “I was given a 360 degree camera as a present, and I wanted to use it to help anxious children I see come into the hospital. As an MRI Physicist, putting the camera inside the scanner seemed like the most logical place to start!”

The app and the headset can also be used at home.

Commenting on the potential of VR, Jerome Di Pietro said: “VR’s an exciting field to be exploring. It’s full of potential. From work and play to education and communication, it’s going to change how we perceive and interact with the world.

“In the Faculty’s Virtual Campus & Technology Enhanced Learning Unit we’re actively exploring how we can use this technology to benefit our students. Immersing them in environments that encourage them to learn through experimentation and allowing them to make mistakes in safe but realistic settings. I was delighted to be able to help Jonathan to bring his idea to fruition.”

Ten year old Matthew Down has to have annual MRI scans after having urgent brain surgery for triventricular hydrocephalus – a build-up of fluid on the brain – in September 2014. He was asked to trial the app and to give his feedback. Matthew said: “I was really worried before my first scan because I didn’t know what to expect, even though my dad explained I couldn’t imagine what it would be like. I think that the app is really helpful as it shows you what to expect and it really feels like you are inside the machine.”

The app is available to download from the Google Play store for Android phones, and will soon be available to download from the App Store for iOS.

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