Qualitative study: patients' and parents' views on brain tumour MRIs

Arch Dis Child. 2020 Feb;105(2):166-172. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2019-317306. Epub 2019 Aug 7.


Background: MRI is essential to the clinical management of children and young people with brain tumours. Advances in technology have made images more complicated to interpret, yet more easily available digitally. It is common practice to show these to patients and families, but how they emotionally respond to, understand and value, seeing brain tumour MRIs has not been formally studied.

Methods: Qualitative semi-structured interviews were undertaken with 14 families (8 patients, 15 parents) purposively sampled from paediatric patients (0 to 18 years) attending a large UK children's hospital for treatment or monitoring of a brain tumour. Transcripts were analysed thematically using the Framework Method.

Results: Four themes were identified: Receiving results (waiting for results, getting results back, preferences to see images), Emotional responses to MRIs, Understanding of images (what they can show, what they cannot show, confusion) and Value of MRIs (aesthetics, aiding understanding, contextualised knowledge/emotional benefits, enhanced control, enhanced working relationships, no value). All families found value in seeing MRIs, including reassurance, hope, improved understanding and enhanced feeling of control over the condition. However emotional responses varied enormously.

Conclusions: Clinical teams should always explain MRIs after 'framing' the information. This should minimise participant confusion around meaning, periodically evident even after many years. Patient and parent preferences for being shown MRIs varied, and often changed over time, therefore clinicians should identify, record and update these preferences. Time between scanning and receiving the result was stressful causing 'scanxiety', but most prioritised accuracy over speed of receiving results.

Keywords: imaging; oncology; paediatric practice; patient perspective; qualitative research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Brain Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Child
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self Report