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Engineering students helping children conquer fear of MRIs

Posted by Theresa Anne Salah on July 6, 2020 in News

Loud noises, cramped spaces, and a frightening environment can make it challenging for young children getting an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). The experience is often so frightening that many are given anesthesia before their procedure.

Now four Mechanical Engineering students from Dalhousie University – Jonathon Betteridge, Daniel Monk, Benjamin Parmiter and Michael Smith – have teamed up with the IWK Health Center in Halifax to develop a new MRI simulator to help children conquer their fear of getting an MRI.

“Our MRI simulator seeks to replicate the conditions of the actual MRI as closely as possible,” says Betteridge, whose team was working on the project this year as part of their Capstone Design Course.

“To accomplish this, we made the bore of the simulator as close in size to the actual MRI machine, added a sliding bed that the MRI technicians can use to demonstrate to the kids, and added a tablet interface that allows kids to choose various sounds the MRI makes to play through a set of headphones.”

Although the MRI will be similar to ones available in children hospitals in Montreal and British Columbia, Betteridge says it will have a very different look.  

“We had the entire shell and bed created out of fiberglass to try and replicate the sheer size of the machine relative to the kids which simulators like the one in Montreal Children Hospitals fail to accomplish.”

“The biggest challenge we ran into while working on the project was coming up with a way to lock the bed easily while it is being rolled back and forth.”

Betteridge says his team is anxious to see if their new design will bring any extra comfort to children scheduled for an MRI.

“Once we get the simulator into the hospital and it becomes accessible to the public, we hope that it will cut down on the number of children that need to undergo sedation for the procedure.”

“It is very fulfilling to know that our work on the project could go on to help kids better deal with the scary task of getting an MRI done.”