Children at King’s first to experience virtual reality MRI

An MRI Physicist at King’s College Hospital has developed a first of a kind application (app) that aims to prepare children for an MRI scan

Jonathan Ashmore and Matthew Down

Having an MRI scan can be daunting for a child, but the My MRI at King's app uses panoramic 360 degree videos to allow children to experience what an MRI scan involves before the real thing takes place. The resource can be viewed on a virtual reality headset or explored on a phone or tablet.

While developing the app, Jonathan Ashmore worked closely with the Play Specialist Team at King’s College Hospital, so that they can use the resource with children before they go in for a scan. There is also the option to use the app and headset at home with their parents. My MRI at King’s takes children all the way through the events that will happen on the day, from arriving at the hospital to entering the scanner.

The VR technology allows children to feel as though they are inside an MRI scanner and experience what it will be like on the day. Children have the opportunity to get accustomed to the loud tapping noises that happen during the scan (this is the electric current in the scanner coils being turned on and off), as well as learning that they need to keep still for the duration of the scan. For some children, having an MRI can be a frightening experience and some require a general anaesthetic to get through the scan.

Jonathan, who has done all of the filming himself, said: “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. As an MRI Physicist, putting the camera inside the scanner seemed like the most logical place to start!”

Jonathan developed the app jointly with Jerome Di Pietro, a Learning Technologist at King’s College London.

Ten year old Matthew Down has to have annual MRI scans after having urgent brain surgery for triventricular hydrocephalus - a build-up of fluid on the brain - in September 2014. He was asked to trial the app and to give his feedback. Matthew said: “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. 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.”

Speaking of the benefits of the app, Dr Darshan Das, Consultant Paediatrician in Paediatric Neurology at King’s, said: “So far the app has had some really positive feedback and I can see that it has the potential to significantly relieve anxiety and prevent the need for children to undergo an anaesthetic in many cases.”

The app is available to download from the Google Play store for Android phones, and will soon be available to download from the App Store for iOS.

For further information please contact:
Molly Downing
Communications Assistant
Extension: +44 (0)20 3299 3257

Notes to editors

1. King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is one of the UK’s largest and busiest teaching hospitals, training over 900 dentists, 750 doctors and 300 nurses every year. The Trust is recognized internationally for its work in liver disease and transplantation, neurosciences, cardiac, haemato-oncology, stroke and major trauma. On 1 October 2013, King’s took over the running of the Princess Royal University Hospital in Bromley and Orpington Hospital, as well as some services at Beckenham Beacon and Queen Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup. The new enlarged organisation has over 10,500 staff and provides over 1 million patient contacts a year. 9,000 babies are delivered by our hospitals each year, and over 750 patients come to our Emergency Departments every day. For more information, please visit the website. You can also support the work of King’s College Hospital at

2. King’s Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) is a pioneering collaboration between King’s College London, and Guy’s and St Thomas’, King’s College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts.

King’s Health Partners is one of only six Department of Health-designated AHSCs in England and brings together an unrivalled range and depth of clinical and research expertise, spanning both physical and mental health. Our combined strengths will drive improvements in care for patients, allowing them to benefit from breakthroughs in medical science and receive leading edge treatment at the earliest possible opportunity.

Our partnership brings together...

  • three of the UK’s leading NHS Foundation Trusts;
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  • 25,000 students;
  • a combined annual turnover of £2.8bn.

... to advance health and wellbeing by integrating world-class research, care and teaching.

3. At King’s College Hospital we fundraise for the best in treatment, research and health education, leading-edge equipment and improving well-being in our communities. By uniting doctors, nurses, researchers and academics with our supporters and volunteers we can provide the best patient care that goes above and beyond. Find out more and support us at

With special thanks to the following people for their support with the project:

Kelly Sibbons
Euan Stokes
Martina Smith
Maureen Newman
Aiobhinn & Cormac McGrath
Jonathan Ashmore
Jerome Di Pietro
Dr Manasi Nandi
The Centre for Neuroimaging Sciences