Does Guided Imagery Keep Very Young Kids Still During an MRI? Yup.

A pilot study in the American Journal of Maternal & Child Nursing investigated whether guided imagery could help a kid undergoing MRI . . .

Way back in September of 1997, a pilot study was published in the American Journal of Maternal & Child Nursing* by Gail Smart, a clinical pediatric nurse specialist at Children's Hospital of Denver.

She investigated whether guided imagery could help calm a kid during an MRI, where they’re stuck in an enclosed tube, all by themselves, while hearing loud, weird, machine noises.  It’s scary.

It’s important to stay very still at specific times during an MRI in order to get accurate readings. Most little kids have to be sedated for them to stay still enough to get successful results.  And sedation isn’t the best of solutions – it can lead to complications and other problems.

So Nurse Smart wanted to see if she could reduce the need for sedation in these kids by getting them to listen to guided imagery beforehand. She ran her study with 20 children, ages 4-8, who were about to have MRI’s. Half were randomly assigned to receive guided imagery before their MRI; the other half got nothing.

The audio she offered them was Magic Island, a calming guided imagery fantasy that used basic relaxation and breathing exercises, and then invited its young listeners to come along on a magical hot air balloon ride to a series of magical islands. The story is designed to activate a sense of mastery, control and empowerment in the kids.  Betty Mehling, an educator and stress expert, wrote and produced it with the help of some top quality professionals.

Sure enough, 7 out of 10 of the kids in the guided imagery group remained perfectly still and didn't need sedation, as compared to only 2 kids out of 10 in the much more frightened control group.
When I saw the study, we immediately went looking for this tape and tracked down Betty Mehling. The audio turned out to sound even better than we’d hoped, and we’ve carried it in our catalog ever since, recommending it wherever it was a good fit.

This year, Betty grew weary of the hassles of re-ordering, production and shipping, so now we’re making it part of our Health Journeys library. No way would we ever let this beautiful audio, that’s helped so many kids, go out of print.  We’re proud and delighted to have it, and we’ll do our best to get it to military and veterans’ families, as well as parents and teachers everywhere.

A big thanks to Betty for creating it this gem.  We promise to take very good care of it.

All best,

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*Smart G. Helping children relax during magnetic resonance imaging. MCN Am J Matern Child Nurs. 1997 Sep-Oct;22(5):236-41