If you’ve ever taken your child to the hospital for an MRI scan, you know it can be a harrowing experience. Convincing a child to lie motionless inside a noisy metal tube while they’re racked with fear, anxiety, and claustrophobia is no easy task. A great many children require sedation, and even that’s no guarantee they’ll make it through without panicking.
But it’s a different world at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
That’s where kids get their MRI scans done in a fun environment known as the Adventure Rooms. It’s in these rooms that kids are provided with distraction therapy. Instead of focusing on that terrible machine, they can journey to outer space, relax at Cozy Camp, and even take a ride on a yellow submarine.
Created by industrial designer Doug Dietz, in conjunction with GE Healthcare, the Adventure Rooms feature MRI scanners that use lights, sounds, and even aromatherapy to “transport” children from the confines of the machine to a series of fantastic (and spacious) worlds.
Dietz came up with the idea after he designed a huge MR scanner and saw a frightened child’s reaction to it.
“I see this young family coming down the hallway and I can tell as they get closer that the little girl is weeping,” says Dietz in the GE Healthcare newsletter. “As they get even closer to me, I notice the father leans down and just goes ‘remember we talked about this, you can be brave.’”
As the family entered the MR room, Dietz looked at his surroundings in a new light. In other words, through the eyes of a child. “Everything was kind of like, beige,” he said. “The room itself is kind of dark and has those flickering fluorescent lights. The machine I had designed basically looked like a brick with a hole in it.”
Dietz was inspired and the Adventure Discovery Series of MR scanners was born. The machines not only welcome children to imaginative new worlds, they even incorporate the technician’s commands so that the MRI can be done accurately.
For example, in one adventure the child is told to lie down in a canoe. The technician then tells the child to hold still so they don’t rock the boat. “And if you really do hold still,” said Dietz, “the fish will start jumping over the top of you!”
GE Healthcare points out that the Adventure Series has been a magnificent success in helping children to overcome their anxiety about MRI’s. Scanning time has been reduced and fewer scans have to be redone because of inaccurate readings.
In a TED Talk, Dietz said that patient satisfaction at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh has gone up by 92%.