Why is this test important?
MRI allows doctors to see images of your internal organs and structures in great detail from many angles. This gives them information more quickly, and in many cases more economically, than past tests and exploratory surgeries.
Will it hurt?
No. Since MRI is "non-invasive", the exam is painless. However, your doctor may utilize a contrast agent to better visualize a part of your anatomy. If this is the case, you may receive a simple shot prior to or during the exam.
Will I feel anything?
No, but you will hear a loud knocking or buzzing sound at various intervals throughout your exam. Other than that, you won't feel a thing.
Does the machine use X-rays?
No. MRI uses a powerful magnet in conjunction with radiofrequency waves to generate images of your internal organs and structures. There is no ionizing (X-Ray) radiation.
Will I fit?
There are very few patients who cannot be comfortably accommodated for an MRI exam.
Is the machine open at both ends?
Yes. All MR systems are open at both ends but some also have wider openings on the sides.
Will my head stick out?
That will depend on your height and what part of your body is being scanned. The part that is being imaged is in the middle of the magnet. For example, if your ankle is being scanned, your head will be outside of the MR scanner. If it is your head, neck, or chest is scanned, your head will be inside of the scanner.
I'm having a head scan. Can I see outside the magnet during my exam?
Yes. Our MRI system uses a special mirror arrangement to allow you to see outside the magnet at all times.
How Long Will the MRI Take?
MRI procedures usually take 45 minutes, but may require additional time, depending on the area scanned.
How should I get ready for the exam?
In most cases, you can just stick with your normal, everyday routine - no special preparation is needed. You can eat and drink your usual diet, work, or play sports (unless you have an injury!) - and take any prescription medications you need. However, there may be some circumstances in which you'll be given specific instructions to follow before the exam. These will be given to you by your doctor, or assistant.
Are there any restrictions with the exam?
Yes. Because the MRI machine uses a strong magnetic field, which will move objects made with iron or steel, let your doctor and the MRI technologist know if you have:
- A pacemaker
- Aneurysm clips
- Cochlear implants
- A neuro-stimulator (Tens-unit)
- Metal implants
- Steel surgical staples or clips
- An implanted drug infusion device
- Any implant made partially or wholly of iron or steel
- Also, if you're pregnant, let the doctor know.
Even metal objects made of iron or steel can interfere with the exam - so don't bring any of the following into the examination room (a secure place to store your valuables will be provided):
- Dentures or partial plates
- Hearing aids
Magnetic waves can also erase the code on bank cards and credit cards, so don't bring any to your exam. Last of all, you will be asked to change into a patient gown.
Will I be claustrophobic?
Most people have no reaction at all. However, if you have had claustrophobic reactions to enclosed spaces before, you should let the doctor or technologist know. Even if you are uncomfortable in small spaces, staff members can help you complete the study.
Will I be alone?
You will be in contact with a technologist at all times. Even when he or she is not in the MRI room, you will be able to talk to him or her by intercom. The technologist is always able to see you through a large patient viewing window. In some cases a friend or family member may stay in the scan room with you during your exam. Please consult the MRI Center staff if you wish to have someone accompany you during the exam.
Does the machine make a lot of noise?
The magnet makes a knocking sound as images are being taken. In between scans the machine is quiet. Ear plugs will provided available to you for your exam and their use will not prevent you from hearing the technologist if he or she speaks to you during the exam.
Do I have to hold still the whole time?
You do have to remain as still as possible, but the time passes quickly. Moving during the procedure may require repeating parts of the exam so it is best to try to remain as still as possible for the best exam results.
How long will the exam take? That will depend on what is being studied, but a typical exam lasts between 30 and 60 minutes. You should always allow extra time in case the exam lasts longer than expected.
Will my insurance cover the cost of the exam?
Most insurance plans will reimburse the cost of most MRI exams. To find out if your insurance plan covers the specific MRI exam you will be having, contact your insurance carrier. MRI exams are frequently subject to deductibles and co-insurance which are a separate benefit from your physician's services.
Are there things that will prevent me from being scanned?
Some patients with metal implants cannot be safely scanned in the MR environment. People with pacemakers, aneurysm clips, especially in the brain; and neurostimulators generally cannot be scanned. Anyone with surgical pins, shrapnel, plates or other type of metal implants should notify the technologist. You will be required to provide a health history when you arrive for your exam explaining any metallic implants you may have. A doctor will determine if a particular metal implant is approved to be in an MR environment.
What's the exam actually like?
To begin the exam, you will lie down on the scan table. When the machine starts to work, you'll hear some loud knocking sounds. These sounds occur whenever the MRI pictures are being taken. Think of them as the clicks a VERY large camera would make when taking pictures! We provide earplugs and headphones to help block out the knocking sounds.
In any case, although it's noisy, an MRI exam is completely painless. The only thing you must do is HOLD STILL. When you take a picture with a camera, your subject must keep still or the picture will come out blurry. It's the same with an MRI machine. If you move, the scans will be out of focus - and you may have to repeat the exam.
If necessary, you may be injected with a solution called a contrast agent. This allows the radiologist to see the image more clearly. MRI contrast agents typically have few or no side effects, and the injection likely will just feel like a slight pinch. You may be asked to give your consent to this injection, at which time a more detailed explanation about the contrast agent will be given to you by the technologist.
Will I feel any different after the exam?
Well, you may feel very well rested since you've just been lying on a table and doing absolutely nothing! (In fact, some people even fall asleep during the exam.) Other than that, you'll feel perfectly normal and can go back to your everyday activities. If you have further questions about your MRI exam, the MRI technologist or your doctor will be glad to answer them.