King’s College Hospital has created a free virtual reality app designed to ease patients’ fears ahead of MRI machine scans.
My MRI at King’s, which has primarily been built for children, is essentially a simple audiovisual guide that walks patients through the events that will happen on the day.
It can be used at home ahead of a scan, and is viewable on a virtual reality headset, such as Google Cardboard. However, users can also explore it on a phone or tablet.
“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,” said MRI physicist Jonathan Ashmore, who developed the app alongside Jerome Di Pietro, a learning technologist at King’s College London.
“As an MRI Physicist, putting the camera inside the scanner seemed like the most logical place to start!”
Entering an MRI machine can be an ordeal, with some children requiring a general anaesthetic to get through the scan.
10-year-old Matthew Down, who has to have annual MRI scans after undergoing urgent brain surgery for triventricular hydrocephalus in 2014, was asked to trial the app.
“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,” he said. “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.”
King’s College Hospital says the app gives patients the opportunity to get accustomed to MRI machines, preparing them for the loud tapping noises they’ll hear during scans - the electric current in the scanner coils being turned on and off - and teaching them that they’ll have to be completely still throughout the procedure.
The My MRI at King’s app is only available on Android devices for now, but an iOS version is in the works and will be coming “soon”.
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