How Grantham and District Hospital’s ‘kitten scanner’ is helping children through MRI scans

The interactive scanner toy allows the hospital’s young patients to get comfortable with scans without the need for sedation

Published: 11 January 2024 MRI

A 'kitten scanner' is being used at the Grantham and District to Hospital to help children understand MRI scanning, what it feels like to have a scan, and how the results can help their recovery.

The technology, a £15,000 scanner and app, has already allowed dozens of children to be scanned without the need for any sedation, in just its first few months of use. 

Radiographer Helen Disbrow-Carpenter and play leader Sandy Crook helped introduce the kitten scanner and play an instrumental role in the clinics.

'Better for patients and parents'

Ms Disbrow-Carpenter said: “Previously, many of our young patients may have needed to be sedated for their scan, but now through play we can do it without. By not needing sedation it means they can have their scans quicker. It is so much better for our patients, their parents and also it frees up hospital resources for our other patients.”

The £15,000 kitten scanner was purchased through the United Lincolnshire Hospitals (ULH) Charity. 

The kitten scanner, made by Philips, is a miniature scanner used in a hospital waiting room to prepare children for an upcoming MRI or CT procedure. It makes use of the Scan Buddy app, which helps to educate children and give them control over their appointment.

'Support and comfort'

Ben Petts, ULH charity manager, said: “We jumped at the chance to get involved in such an amazing project. Hearing the difference that the Kitten Scanner is already making for patients is wonderful. Plans are in place to run more sessions so that even more of our young patients can get to play with the kitten scanner.”

Ms Crook said: “Coming to hospital is daunting for anyone, but especially when you are a child. By using the app and playing with the kitten scanner the children understand what is happening and can ask any questions they might have. Only when they are comfortable, I bring them from the Kingfisher Suite and across the courtyard for them to have their own MRI scan with Helen and the team.

“They know what it will look like, what sounds they might hear and they can also pick a film to watch while they are having their scan. We also allow a parent to be present and have a ribbon that they and their child can each hold an end of throughout the scan for support and comfort.”

'Nothing to worry about'

Phoebe McCormack, nine years old from near Lincoln, is one of the patients who recently had a scan. 

She said: “I was really nervous, but playing with Sandy and the kitten scanner really helped. I was able to ask lots of questions and so when I was having my scan I knew what to expect. It wasn’t frightening as I knew what was going on. I would tell other boys and girls that there is nothing to worry about and to come and see for themselves if they need a scan.”

Phoebe’s dad Chris added: “We were all a bit nervous this morning, but it has been really wonderful. Phoebe has had fun and more importantly she has been able to have the scan that she needed. We cannot thank the team and the charity enough for what they are doing.”

(Image: Sandy, Phoebe and Chris with the Kitten Scanner, via United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust)