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MRI Machines Get A Makeover In New UCSF Medical Scanning Center Designed To Calm Kids

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- UCSF Mission Bay hospital staff are polishing their skills on the newest and most attractive magnetic resonance imaging machines (MRI) in the country in an effort to make it easier for young patients to stay still during a sometimes-frightful procedure.

Ordinarily during an MRI scan, the patient must lie perfectly motionless for a long time inside a claustrophbic tube. It's tough to do even for adults but it can be nearly impossible for kids. That's where UCSF's new "theme" MRI units come in.

One machine looks like a cable car. While inside, the patient can watch movies with video goggles or listen to music. There's even a ceiling-mounted flat screen display. Another room has a Golden Gate theme, with murals and soothing wall projections of nature.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging Suite at UCSF
One of the new 'theme' MRI scanning suites at UCSF Mission Bay. (CBS)

The idea is to comfort kids so they relax and don't move, thus avoiding the need for sedation.

Chris Ovlen, UCSF Mission Bay senior project manager is proud of the technical achievement. "We took it to another level introducing technology, projection, LED light changes, flat screen projection and audio," he told KPIX 5's Don Ford.

UCSF MRI technologist Peggy Woodward says it's a way to make a difficult procedure something to look forward to.

"That's the idea anyway; that they will get distracted right off the bat ... It's always fun for children," she says.

In about two weeks the units will out of beta and open to "real" patients. The unit's motto is "children come first."

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