Less anesthesia – More play for MRIs

Erik Ranschaert and Ben Taragin

Dr. Benjamin Taragin knows a lot about what kids need when facing radiology scans. He has spearheaded the production of a miniature MRI model using toy building blocks, so that children can play about their experiences before and after scans. When I asked Dr. Ben about how this all came about, he shared the following narrative. We hope you will be inspired by his story and jump on board to help make his I Love MRI kits available to any child in need of an MRI. 

“I have always been fascinated by LEGO ®. There is something soothing about raking the pile with your hands trying to find the perfect piece to complete your next build. It was with this mindset, that I was helping my son, Yoni, build one of his projects (clearly there is no pleasure in this for me ;)). As we were working with the LEGO pieces, I came across a curved semicircular piece and realized that it reminded me of the bore opening of an MRI. With that thought in my head, my son and I began to build our initial LEGO MRI model. After building it, I realized that this might be useful for our child life division at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore (http://www.cham.org/). Meghan Kelly has grown the Child Life Program there over the years, and created a child life position in the radiology department. I partnered with Meghan and our radiology child life specialist, Susan Franks, to explore how we could use the model when prepping patients for MRI. While many simulators exist on the market, some large and some small, most of them are very expensive, and none are built with the basic blocks of childhood. Additionally, its small size and portability allows it to be carried around the hospital in a regular work bag, and it is easily disinfected.

“After hearing positive comments from our child life department and realizing this may be useful on a more national/international scale, we endeavored to gain support on the LEGO ideas website. Our original model was well received, but after reading some posts from supporters on LEGO ideas my son and I built a more detailed model.

“Unfortunately, although the idea was well received the numbers of supporters needed at this site seemed out of reach.

“We then reached out to fellow radiologists in an attempt to harness the power of social media. Fortunately, Geraldine McGinty, Chair, ACR Commission on Economics, agreed to post it on her twitter feed. There it was noticed by Dr. Erik Ranschaert, a radiologist in the Netherlands, who was similarly taken with the idea. Using fierce determination , Erik was able to communicate with certified Lego Professional, Dirk Denoyelle. Erik and Dirk refined the concept using wits and experience to the new improved version below.

“Erik has also succeeded in engaging his hospital’s play specialists and pediatricians who are excited to realize this project’s potential. Erik’s hospital, Jeroen Bosch Hospital in Den Bosch, the Netherlands, (http://www.jeroenboschziekenhuis.nl/), has “put their money where their mouth is” and provided startup funds for our initial product run.

“In a nice example of “many hands make light work,” the combined efforts of Erik, Geraldine, Dirk, my son Yoni, and myself, we are now moving forward with the project on 2 different levels.

“We hope to distribute full size MRI simulation sets to children’s hospitals across the world. Eventually we hope this kit along with other elements will be made available by children’s hospitals everywhere. Additionally we will make available small MRI units consisting of just the magnet itself for those interested in a less expensive alternative.


“Some centers may even consider obtaining this smaller kit as a pre-visit gift for children preparing for their first MRI. Additionally, with time this can be complimented by other facets we hope to create including a LEGO themed video about undergoing MRI and eventually a Smart phone application which will allow patients to download and pre-listen to the entire audio of MRI study’s sequences to help prepare for the loud and unusual noises which often scare children.

“We hope to partner with other sites internationally to provide data of the efficacy of the LEGO MRI.

“Fortuitously, this year the International Day of Radiology (http://www.internationaldayofradiology.com/) is centered on pediatric radiology which allows us to publicize this project and invite others to join us. With the backing of ESR/ACR/SPR, we are part of the effort to publicize the value of radiology and creative approaches to optimizing children’s experience in radiology.

“It is our hope that this portable stimulator and our additive programs will enable children of younger ages and children with special needs to feel less anxious about the prospect of having an MRI ,as well as allow them to complete the study without the need for anesthesia.

Talk about a block party!

PS: See attached blog write up and coverage of the Lego MRI rollout see video below from international radiology site. http://www.auntminnie.com/index.aspx?sec=rca&sub=rsna_2015&pag=dis&ItemID=112797.

If you have any great ideas about how to get this project out to hospitalized children, and for more information, please email Ben at hospitalblocks@gmail.com.

This is not an official LEGO® product. The LEGO Group does not endorse this product in any way, shape or form and does not accept any responsibility for any unforeseen or adverse consequences following from this product. LEGO® LEGO, the LEGO logo/the Minifigure/ MINDSTORMS/LEGOLAND are trademarks of the LEGO Group. ©2015 The LEGO Group.


10 thoughts on “Less anesthesia – More play for MRIs

  1. Deb,

    Thank you so much for posting this article and the related articles at the end of the video! This is an area of preparation that I investigated during my internship experience and something that I would like to keep researching. This Lego model appears very realistic in terms of cost which, I feel, has been a major road block with reference to MRI preparation. Thank you so much for sharing this!

    Mary Pat

    Mary Pat S. Benning B.A., B.S., CCLS

    Certified Child Life Specialist

    Licensed Educator

    Founder, Heartfelt Books, LLC



    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t think this is just for children. I had a family member who could have used this, and I think the Legos would have brought a smile to her face.

    Liked by 1 person

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