Health Library
MRI Airway Study

What is a MRI Airway Study?

MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. An MRI uses a powerful magnet, radio waves and computer to acquire pictures of just about any body part, including your child's airway.

MRI Airway Study are ordered if your child is having airway problems and breathing difficulties that occur during sleep. For this test, the MRI takes pictures of the throat, nose and mouth while your child is sleeping.

The Department of Anesthesia provides general anesthesia for children who have airway problems and breathing difficulties that occur during sleep. Anesthesiologists focus on keeping the airway safe, keeping your child from moving during the procedure and aiding in a rapid recovery from anesthesia, with minimal side effects.

The parent or legal guardian must give consent before services are rendered. If the parent or legal guardian is unable to come to the appointment, you must bring a phone number where they may be reached at the time of the appointment. If we are unable to reach the parent or legal guardian for consent, the child will not be seen.

Before the Study

You will receive a special set of eating and drinking instructions when you schedule the procedure. The instructions must be followed carefully. We will call to confirm your appointment 24 to 48 hours prior to the MRI exam.

If your child is on medicine ordered by a doctor, give them at their scheduled time with only a sip of water or a teaspoon of Jell-O.

We will examine your child before the procedure. We will also ask questions about your child's medical history, allergies, current medicines, metallic implants, previous anesthetic experience and current health status. If your child has any type of orthodontic hardware, please call the MRI department to discuss. For this type of MRI, dental hardware can obscure the images of the airway and negatively impact the results.

General anesthesia is typically given by having your child breathe anesthetic gas through a mask. In older children, anesthesia may be given through an IV.

Anesthesia professionals will watch your child closely during the test. Doctors and nurses will check your child's heart's activity, blood pressure and oxygen levels and observe the airway.

For your safety and to ensure the quality of your MRI exam, the patient will be asked to change into a hospital garment. All piercings and jewelry will need to be removed before the exam. A personal locker will be provided for these items.

During the Study

The MRI machine is a large magnet that is in the shape of a tunnel. When your child is asleep under general anesthesia, they will lie on their back on a table in the center of the tunnel. An MRI technologist takes pictures of your child's nose, throat and mouth.

It is possible that during the procedure your child may experience some discomfort. A doctor and nurse will interrupt the test if it is necessary.

The imaging part of the test takes about 60 minutes to complete. Parents will stay in the waiting area while the test is done.

After the Study

After the test is complete your child will go to the Radiology Recovery Room until they are ready to go home. We will give you special home instructions when you leave. Your child's doctor will notify you of the test results.

If you would like help explaining this procedure to your child, or if you have questions or concerns regarding how to best support your child during this procedure, contact our Child Life specialist, 513-636-2487.

Last Updated 09/2022

Reviewed By Julie Young

Who treats this.

Learn about Cincinnati Children’s Complex Obstructive Sleep Apnea Center. Our experts combine their specialties to create a complete treatment plan that’s personalized for your child’s specific symptoms and condition.