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Virtual/augmented reality playkit eases kids’ and parents’ anxieties ahead of MR scan

Press releases may be edited for formatting or style | November 08, 2023 MRI

The development of the playkit was informed by primary school children’s and parental feedback, and tested on 13 patients and their parents/ carers.

This feedback indicated that the playkit helped some children (and their parents/carers) to prepare for the MRI scan and that it also helped to relieve anxiety during the scan.

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The children said that recalling aspects of the playkit during their scan helped them to remain calm and still. Others said that the playkit helped prepare them for what an MRI scanner would look like and the noise that it would make.

Older children seemed to prefer the virtual reality aspects of the kit, while younger children were more drawn to the physical play and augmented reality aspects.

Both children and parents/carers said that they had previously felt anxious about the prospect of an MRI scan because of the unknowns involved. And the children suggested that they would like to have detailed factual information about the MRI scan.

As one child-parent pair found it difficult to build the mini cardboard scanner, the design may need further refinement, and the playkit would need to be tested on much larger numbers of children both nationally and internationally, emphasise the researchers.

But they suggest that the kit has the potential to be adapted for use elsewhere: for example, to help prepare children coming into an admissions unit for planned surgery; during transfer to theatre; and needling procedures.

“The development of the mixed realities MRI playkit addresses a significant global problem within paediatric anaesthesia and presents an opportunity for a change in practice to reduce the number of paediatric [general anaesthesias] and improve efficiency and resource usage within radiology and anaesthetic departments,” they write.

“The longest waiting list in radiology at our hospital is for MRI scans under [general anaesthesia], and delays in performing scans lead to delays in diagnosis and treatment for children and their families, as well as increased usage of scanning time which further impacts the MRI waiting list,” they elaborate.

“Additionally, a reduction in the requirement of [general anaesthesia] for paediatric MRI reduces the need for an anaesthetist, enabling their use elsewhere—for example, to help reduce the backlog in elective surgery waiting lists.”

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