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Strategies to improve the magnetic resonance imaging experience for autistic individuals: a cross-sectional study exploring parents and carers' experiences

Stogiannos, N. ORCID: 0000-0003-1378-6631, Pavlopoulou, G., Papadopoulos, C. , Walsh, G., Potts, B., Moqbel, S., Gkaravella, A., McNulty, J., Simcock, C., Gaigg, S., Bowler, D., Marais, K., Cleaver, K., Lloyd, J. H., Dos Reis, C. S. & Malamateniou, C. ORCID: 0000-0002-2352-8575 (2023). Strategies to improve the magnetic resonance imaging experience for autistic individuals: a cross-sectional study exploring parents and carers' experiences. BMC Health Services Research, 23(1), article number 1375. doi: 10.1186/s12913-023-10333-w


BACKGROUND: Autistic individuals encounter numerous barriers in accessing healthcare, including communication difficulties, sensory sensitivities, and a lack of appropriate adjustments. These issues are particularly acute during MRI scans, which involve confined spaces, loud noises, and the necessity to remain still. There remains no unified approach to preparing autistic individuals for MRI procedures.

METHODS: A cross-sectional online survey was conducted with parents and carers of autistic individuals in the UK to explore their experiences, barriers, and recommendations concerning MRI scans. The survey collected demographic information and experiential accounts of previous MRI procedures. Quantitative data were analysed descriptively, while key themes were identified within the qualitative data through inductive thematic analysis.

RESULTS: Sixteen parents/carers participated. The majority reported difficulties with communication, inadequate pre-scan preparation, and insufficient adjustments during MRI scans for their autistic children. Key barriers included an overwhelming sensory environment, radiographers' limited understanding of autism, and anxiety stemming from uncertainties about the procedure. Recommended improvements encompassed accessible communication, pre-visit familiarisation, noise-reduction and sensory adaptations, staff training on autism, and greater flexibility to meet individual needs.

CONCLUSIONS: There is an urgent need to enhance MRI experiences for autistic individuals. This can be achieved through improved staff knowledge, effective communication strategies, thorough pre-scan preparation, and tailored reasonable adjustments. Co-producing clear MRI guidelines with the autism community could standardise sensitive practices. An individualised approach is crucial for reducing anxiety and facilitating participation. Empowering radiographers through autism-specific education and incorporating insights from autistic individuals and their families could transform MRI experiences and outcomes.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
Publisher Keywords: Autism, Magnetic resonance imaging, Radiography, Healthcare accessibility, Parents, Carers, Inclusivity
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ101 Child Health. Child health services
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Midwifery & Radiography
SWORD Depositor:
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