Children at King’s first to experience virtual reality MRI

An MRI Physicist at King’s College Hospital has developed a first of a kind application (app) that aims 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 takes place. The resource can be viewed on a virtual reality headset or explored on a phone or tablet.

While developing the app, Jonathan worked closely with the Neuroradiography Team and Play Specialist, Kelly Sibbons, so they can use the app with their patients before they go in for a scan. There is also the option to use the app and headset at home with their parents. My MRI at King’s takes children all the way through the events that will happen on the day, from arriving at the hospital to entering the scanner.

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.

Jonathan, who has done all of the filming himself, 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!”

Jonathan developed the app jointly with Jerome Di Pietro, a Learning Technologist at King’s College London.

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.”

Speaking of the benefits of the app, Dr Darshan Das, Consultant Paediatrician in Paediatric Neurology at King’s, said: “So far the app has had some really positive feedback and I can see that it has the potential to significantly relieve anxiety and prevent the need for children to undergo an anaesthetic in many cases.”

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.