Radiating Hope: Radiology Department Blog


Getting an MRI of the Head? Now, How Long Will That Take Again?

Getting an MRI of the Head? Now, How Long Will That Take Again?

Most people believe if they are getting an image of their head it should take the same amount of time every time. However, there is more to a brain exam than initially meets the eye; there are a couple of different types of MRIs we can do if your child requires pictures taken of his or her head. These different types of pictures may vary in the length of time and the overall amount of images needed to be captured. It is a cooperative effort between your doctor and our radiologists that will determine the best MRI and the required images to see why your child is feeling the way she is.

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The quickest exam we take of the brain is called an MRI Limited Brain. These pictures are quick sequences that are set up to only take about 5 minutes and, as the name suggests, it is a very limited study. Your child will not require any form of sedation for this particular test because of its short duration and it is set up to allow for slight motion. Some little children may be a bit scared by the noise that occurs during the picture taking, but they are perfectly safe and will only need to be in the MRI scanner for about 3-5 minutes for this limited brain study. The best thing a parent can do if their child requires this type exam is to help by just being there. Talking to the child, letting him or her know that it is just a quick picture and they are safe, often aids in the success of the study.

Aside from the procedure previously mentioned, the majority of our MRI brain scans take anywhere from 30-60 minutes. Once again the details of the MRI are decided on by your child’s doctor and our radiologists depending on what type of symptoms your child may be having or what the doctors are specifically looking for within the head. Some of the MRIs we complete may require your child to have contrast injected. In this case your child will need to have an IV placed before getting your pictures taken. These images usually take a little longer since we need to capture a few extra pictures once contrast has been given. You can expect your child to be in the MRI scanner for about 60 minutes if the doctor orders an MRI with contrast.

For all other MRI brain imaging that does not require your child to have MRI contrast, it can take anywhere from 30-45 minutes inside the MRI scanner. If your child’s doctor has ordered an MRI of the brain plus an additional specification, like the CCJ (Cervical Cranial Junction), orbits or IACs (inner auditory canals), then the exam will be closer to the 45-minute mark. These additional requests add extra time-consuming requirements, such as higher resolution images or tracking of your child’s pulse.

Our staff tries to give a very detailed explanation of each type of MRI your child will be having, and if you have any questions we will always take any needed time to make sure you and your child feel safe and well informed. Please keep in mind we are always striving to be the best in what we do, so these time ranges may change in the future. Hopefully this means your visit will become shorter and shorter, but we are going to do whatever it takes to change the outcome and give you the greatest service possible. No matter how long that may take.

Contributed by Laura Hanselman (RT-MRI) and edited by Tony Dandino (RT-MRI).

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About the author: Tony Dandino

Tony is an MRI Technologist at Cincinnati Children’s. Tony has been in his role for several years and serves as a Charge Tech, Quality Improvement Coach and Safety Coach for the MRI department. Tony has always known he wanted to work with children and in the medical field. Working at Cincinnati Children's has been the best of both worlds. Every day is something new and Tony can never wait to start the next adventure.