Have a question?

Call us: 416-813-7654 ext. 202274
Email us: researchmri.team@sickkids.ca

SickKids Research MRI Core Facility

We support internal and external scientists and medical physicians’ research by providing access to dedicated, state-of-the-art Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) equipment.

Led by a front-line team of child-friendly, experienced SickKids staff, we offer several key MR imaging services through our premier MRI system – the Siemens PrismaFit – to veteran and novice investigators interested in advancing their research.

Researchers worldwide use the facility for various types of work, employing the Siemens PrismaFit to scan wide varieties of age populations from fetal to geriatric, diagnosed populations, and more.

MR imaging capabilities

The Research MRI facility has been used by researchers globally, assisting in various paediatric studies including phantoms, specimens, fetal to geriatric age range and more. The facility has managed and processed over 350 Research Ethics Board-approved studies for both internal and external principal investigators, making it a leading facility for all types of paediatric MRI research.

Our current MRI system, the Siemens PrismaFit, offers several in-demand imaging capabilities for researchers:

  • 48 RF Channel Package
  • Conventional anatomical imaging
  • SMS (simultaneous multi-slice)
  • fMRI (functional imaging)
  • MNS(multinuclear spectroscopy, 129Xe Xenon and 31P Phosphorus)
  • Idea Licensing and research agreement with Siemens
  • Expert-i
  • MapIt
  • SyngoZOOMit
  • TIM Whole Body Suite

Exclusive benefits for researchers

Conducting research at SickKids not only ensures you’re working with skilled staff backed by top-end infrastructure and equipment, but you’ll gain access to a number of benefits and services exclusive to our facility.

These are just a handful of value-added benefits available to researchers at our facility:

  • Multinuclear spectroscopy Xenon and phosphorus capabilities
  • MRI compatible LODE up/down leg ergometer to exercise while in the MR
  • Audiovisual system for participant comfort and fMRI display
  • RespirAct Thornhill Medical device to measure vascular reactivity
  • Invivo Expression human physiological monitor
  • MRI compatible incubator/ventilator for neonatal imaging
  • Bair Hugger, MRI compatible device to keep the surrounding air warm for participants with sensitivities
  • IV-line wave guide
  • Calpendo, a self-scheduling system – book participants at a time that’s convenient for them and yourself (schedule restrictions may apply)
  • LCModel spectroscopic postprocessing
  • Research PACS storage and transferring capabilities (contact researchhelpdesk@sickkids.cafor more information)
  • Assessment room – free to book for running behavioural assessments on subjects that are booked for an MRI research study

Our rates

For more information on facility costs, or to access our rate information in an alternative format, please contact us.

MRI Peer Reviewed External/Internal GrantMRI Commercial for Profit
Human$250/30 min≤$600/30 min
Other$300/hourTo be determined
MRT After Hours$40/30 min$80/30 min
Gadovist$75/7.5ml single use vial$150/7.5ml single use vial
Phantom Scan with MRT$300/hour$600/hour
Phantom Scan no MRT$200/scan$400/scan

 

Application process

  1. Before you can book the 3.0T Siemens PrismaFit, all research studies must obtain Research Ethics Board (REB) or Animal Care Committee approval. Assistance from Legal services and/or the Research Institute Grants Management Office may be required for external research projects.
  2. Complete the Tri-Council Policy Statement (TCPS) Training, which is mandatory for all involved in human research.
  3. Applications are reviewed by a Research MRI technologist. You and/or your collaborators may be contacted for further protocol/sequence development and equipment testing if necessary.
  4. The Research MRI Application Form (PDF) can be completed and submitted entirely online. You’ll also need to fill out the Human Intake Form, if applicable. A link to the Human Intake Form is available in the MRI Application Form PDF.
  5. Once approved, you’ll have access to our online self-scheduling system, Calpendo, for MRI and research assessment room bookings. Calpendo is only accessible from within the SickKids network (via VPN). Non-SickKids staff can contact the Research MRI team to set up their bookings.

Facility procedures

Before using the MRI Core Facility, please review our current COVID-19 procedures:

Screening

All participants and personnel must complete the appropriate entry screening upon arrival to the Hospital.

Physical distancing

Human participants
  1. Within the online scheduling software, coordinators/staff are required to apply an additional 30 min booking after each scheduled scan to allow for appropriate cleaning and physical distancing.
    • The study groups will use the universal booking code COVID19 and will not incur a cost for this additional time
  2. Coordinators must pre-screen participant and caregiver via phone/email 1-2 days prior to their Hospital visit using SickKids’ COVID-19 screening questionnaire. This additional measure will reduce the number of families unnecessarily entering the facility. Only one family member per participant is permitted as per current hospital visitor guidelines.
    • Research-only screen failures are not permitted entry.
    • Clinical visit with research component screen failures may be permitted to enter after further assessment. Contact Research MRI and clinic before proceeding to research MRI/MEG reception.
  3. On arrival, families will be formally screened prior to entry and will then obtain:
    • COVID-19 risk factor ticket at entry screening.
    • Additional questions provided by SickKids as required.
  4. RA/coordinators are to meet participants after initial hospital screening to confirm entrance eligibility and then will accompany participant to Research MRI/MEG reception area.
  5. MRI participants will wait at Research MRI/MEG reception in separate areas to meet physical distancing requirements.
    1. MRI participants wait in the main area.
    2. Assessment room bookings proceed directly into the assessment room. Note, in and out access is not permitted
  6. As per hospital policy and current guidelines, PPE must be worn by staff, participant and family member throughout the Research MRI visit, with the option of removal during the MRI scan due to participant comfort and/or safety. Homemade masks will be treated as clothing as the material content is unknown and they are not permitted while scanning. In this event, if the participant requests a mask, an MRI-safe mask will be provided by the study group.
  7. After registration and participant preparation in the reception area, the coordinator/clerk will confirm the Research MRI suite is prepared before escorting the participant to the MRI scanner.
  8. Upon arrival into the Research MRI suite the RA/coordinator, participant and caregiver to wash/sanitize hands.
  9. To create a unidirectional movement of staff and families, participants should not return to the registration area upon completion of MRI scanning. Staff/families should thus take belongings from the reception area when they proceed to the MRI suite.
Technical development/Phantom/Animal Scanning
  • System use for technical development should follow hospital guidelines for shared resources and occupancy. Walk through training should be performed by MRT prior to use.
  • Technical development staff/users should confirm with Research MRI the suite is cleaned and vacant prior to arrival.
  • As per hospital policy and current guidelines, PPE must be worn throughout the MRI visit by all research and hospital staff.

PPE

Research MRI will not provide masks, gowns or gloves to staff or their participants. MRI safe masks will be provided to participants who request to wear a mask during the MRI by the study group. Each lab using the facility for participants, phantom or animal scanning are required to obtain the necessary supplies. The current supplies on site are able to provide approximately one full month of operation. Supplies and bookings will be monitored closely and only ordered as needed, to not impact the hospital’s clinical needs.

Equipment Sanitization

Even though Research MRI is cleaned daily by hospital services, study staff are expected to sanitize the spaces used in the course of their research. This includes but is not limited to the MRI scanner and related work areas, keyboards, audio visual equipment and phantoms. Staff are also expected to physical distance and exercise Public Health best practices (handwashing, no face touching, etc.) while in the Research MRI suite. The equipment is to be cleaned with appropriate disinfectant before work begins and after it’s completed by the individual users. and will be provided by the Research MRI department. Waiting areas are to be cleaned as per hospital guidelines.

Once a research project application is approved, the investigator or team delegate will be given access to the online booking system, Calpendo.

Calpendo is only accessible from within the SickKids network (via VPN). Non-SickKids staff can contact the Research MRI team to set up their bookings.

Users who are not on the SickKids network, including non-SickKids staff, can add Calpendo to Outlook 365, which allows remote users to view the schedule through the Outlook 365 web app. This calendar will be read-only and will only update about once every hour.

Scheduling guidelines

For participant confidentiality and privacy, following the Tri-Council Policy Statement, do not put participant personal information such as initials, age, gender, diagnostic, etc. in the booking comments. Instead, use participant codes if you wish to distinguish your bookings.

REB

An active REB is required for bookings in Calpendo. The system will not allow an expired REB/study account to schedule participants. Calpendo will send an automatic email requesting the new REB when a project is due for REB renewal. If you receive a notice about REB expiry or booking ability has stopped, please inform the study investigator immediately and forward the REB renewal letter to researchmri.team@sickkids.ca.

Booking approval and automatic denials

Reserving time without confirmed participants is not permitted. Calpendo booking approval depends on a signed Epic order, otherwise the Calpendo booking will remain “Requested”. Bookings that remain in a “Requested” state will be automatically cancelled based on the following schedule:

If there are:

  • 20 or more business days between the booking and appointment, a warning email will be sent 5 business days after booking
  • Between 5 and 19 business days between booking and appointment, a warning email will be sent 1 business day after booking
  • Less than 5 business days between booking and appointment, a warning email will be sent immediately after booking
  • For bookings past the project expiry date and past the above deadlines, a warning email will be sent 1 business day after the project is extended

Bookings will be automatically cancelled if they are still unapproved 24 hours after the warning email was sent.

Time allocation

Bookings are made in increments of 30 minutes and will include:

  • time in the lab for setting up equipment
  • preparing participants (placing fiducials, attending to their comfort, explaining tasks, etc.),
  • actual recording/scanning time,
  • and equipment disassembly.

The area should be cleared and ready for the next group by the end of the booked time. In the event the study is not completed within the booked time the scan may be terminated or the additional time billed in 30 minute increments if the schedule allows. 

Cancelling booked sessions

If the investigator is not able to attend the booked session, 48 hours notice is required for a no-penalty cancellation. Please notify the technologist and remove your code from the schedule.

If 48 hours notice is not given prior to cancellation, the study will be charged for 50% of the scheduled time with a minimum of 30 minutes at the normal rate.

In the event of expected or unexpected downtime, the Research MRI team will inform the investigators and research coordinators. It is the responsibility of the study team to notify and reschedule participants.

Special bookings

Your study may require booking a participant outside of our regular operating hours.

We occasionally accommodate special bookings when we have a technologist available. Please contact the MRI technologist directly for special booking requests. There will be an overtime fee added to the regular hourly rate for your session.

Note that all paediatrics and/or diagnosed participants must be scanned by a registered technologist. Human-funded healthy volunteers, phantoms, specimens may be scanned by a trained researcher. Basic research scanning can be booked outside regular hours directly.

Assessment Room

There is a small assessment room in the Research MRI & MEG Reception area that is available to book for free. This can be used for running behavioural assessments, etc. on participants that are booked for an MRI research study on the same day or within a few days.

To facilitate new grant submissions, SickKids investigators with REB approval collect data on our research MRI systems to support proposed grants. Data is used to create figures for a grant, but aren’t intended for publication or to act as a pilot study in substitution of a proposed grant.

Data is normally provided from a small number of participants (less than five). This is the typical procedure we follow:

  1. The principal investigator (PI), who is a permanent SickKids staff member, contacts Dr. Chris Macgowan by email with:
    • Title of the grant
    • Proposed funding agencies and dates for submission
    • Expected budget amount
    • Requested number of MRI hours/examinations
  2. The PI, Dr. Macgowan and a technologist will meet to discuss the project. From there, we’ll need the following
    • Justification of hours/examination requested and time line for studies.
    • Outline of expected future usage of the research MRI once the project is funded.
  3. Following the meeting, Dr. Macgowan will e-mail the applicant with a decision, including the number of approved hours/examinations and a booking code for the study.

Please arrive with your participant 30 minutes ahead of your scheduled scan time at the Research MRI-MEG Reception.

This time allows for participant registration, clothes change, and final screening (including contrast screening for the participant, or non-Patient screening for the parent/guardian if required).

When the technologist is ready, you’ll be directed to the MRI lab and the scan or experiment will begin.

As data gets deleted regularly from the system, please verify that all your data is properly transferred and intact after each collection. It’s the researcher’s responsibility to maintain data, as there is no long-term backup system within Research MRI. It is imperative to copy and verity all data immediately after scan. Investigators looking for secure file storage should consider RIT’s File Storage Services or purchase their own backup solution.

Transferring data

Researchers can get their data from the scanner using any one of the following methods:

  • GE Research PACS
  • Dicom node transfer: transfer directly from the scanner to a Linux box or virtual machine within the hospital firewall
  • Provide access to copy data to a RIT Carbon file share

Meet our facility staff

Our staff is a diverse and vibrant group that brings experience, technique and skills to assist your research needs. Learn more about each of our facility members below.

Tammy Rayner, MRT (MR)(R)

Senior Research MRI Technologist and Site Manager

Tammy has dedicated her career to SickKids MRI since 1999. She helped pioneer the research MRI facility in 2004, bringing her enthusiastic, creative, caring nature to volunteers and participants.

Ruth Weiss, MRT (MR)(R)

Senior Research MRI Technologist and Site Manager

Ruth has been practicing MRI since 2004 and joined the Research MRI team in 2007. Her knowledge and experience from other diagnostic disciplines provides additional compassion and sensitivity to the team and participants.

Leslie Burns, MRT (MR)(R)

Research MRI Technologist

Leslie has been practicing MRI since 2007 and joined the research team parttime in 2019. Along with knowledge and experience, she encompasses empathy and kindness which is bought to every aspect of her position.

Elizabeth Robertson

Patient Information Clerk

Beth joined the Research MRI team in 2015. Going above and beyond to assist those in need as a patient information clerk, she brings an extra personal touch from her Bachelor of Science in psychology and anthropology.

Christina Millan

Administration Assistant

Christopher Macgowan, PhD

Scientific Director, Research MRI

Senior Scientist, Translational Medicine, SickKids Research Institute

University of Toronto, Associate Professor, Department of Medical Biophysics

Visit Dr. Macgowan’s full staff profile

Contact us

For additional questions about the MRI facility including bookings, rates, equipment, services or availability, please get in touch!

416-813-7654 ext. 202274 

The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids)
Room S720
555 University Avenue
Toronto, ON
M5G 1X8

Contact us

For additional questions about the MRI facility including bookings, rates, equipment, services or availability, please get in touch!

416-813-7654 ext. 202274 

The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids)
Room S720
555 University Avenue
Toronto, ON
M5G 1X8