You know of CAT scans, now meet the Kitten Scanner

ABC Radio Melbourne


Simon Leo Brown


October 21, 2017 06:00:00

Monash Children’s Hospital’s ‘Kitten Scanner’ helps patients like Levi learn about MRI machines. (ABC Radio Melbourne: Simon Leo Brown)
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You’ve heard of a CAT scanner, now meet the Kitten Scanner.The child-sized replica of an MRI machine gives children who require a scan a sense of what is involved.The toy scanner has helped Monash Children’s Hospital achieve a 100 per cent success rate in its MRI scans since the redeveloped public hospital opened in April.”An MRI can be quite an intimidating experience,” MCH’s head of Paediatric Imaging Professor Michael Ditchfield said.”We’re trying to get kids who are four and six into the scanner without an anaesthetic.”Kids scan chickens, robots and more

The Kitten Scanner detects that Levi has chosen Doris the Chicken. (Jeff Chen)
Around the world children as old as 10 or 12 are often sedated for scanning, Dr Ditchfield said, but the new centre allows the MCH to avoid using anaesthetic.”We can reliably use this technology for children six and above, and we’re pushing the envelope down to four and above.”The installation, the largest of its type in the southern hemisphere, was made possible through a gift of $2.6 million from an anonymous donor. ABC Radio Melbourne is taking up Radio In Residence at Monash Children’s Hospital on October 21 and 22. “You could buy another scanner for that, but there’s no point having a scanner if you can’t get the kid on the scanner,” Dr Ditchfield said. Photo:
The scan discovers Doris has been visited by the Fairy Egg Mother. (ABC Radio Melbourne: Simon Leo Brown)
Having been introduced to the idea of a scanner, the child patient then practices lying still in a mock MRI machine.”They can take what they’ve learned through play, and then apply that,” Dr Ditchfield said.MRI supervisor Jeff Chen said this two-step process makes the actual scanner far less intimidating.”When they see the real thing, they’re familiarised with the medical equipment,” he said.Reducing need for anaestheticOnce a child is on the MRI machine, the next difficulty comes in getting them to stay still.The MCH’s MRI room is designed to do that through distraction, with a video projection, soothing sounds and coloured lights

Children can choose from a number of themes for the MRI room. (ABC Radio Melbourne: Simon Leo Brown)
The small Kitten Scanner room has four toys hanging on the wall: Ollie Elephant, Chris Crocodile, Robert Robot and Doris Chicken.A child can grab any of the toys, put it on the bed of the scanner and slide it into the donut-shaped device, which detects which character the child has chosen.A short animation then plays on screen showing a “scan” of the toy and telling a story about what has been discovered.Ollie Elephant, for example, has accidently sucked up fish while drinking, while Robert Robot’s alien owner has become stuck inside.