MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) uses a large magnet, a computer, and radio waves to look inside your body. Having a MRI scan is painless and requires minimal preparation. The test can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours.
If you become uncomfortable lying still for a long time or if you are uncomfortable in close spaces, talk to your doctor beforehand. He or she may make arrangements for you to receive a sedative before your scan. If you have a sedative, you will need to inform the receptionist and arrive one half hour before the scan to take the medication. If you have a sedative, you must have someone to drive your home.
Preparing for Your MRI Scan
- IMPORTANT: If you have a cardiac (heart) pacemaker or brain aneurysm clips you cannot have an MRI. Please discuss your options with your doctor.
- Please be sure to let your doctor and nurse know if you have any allergies.
- Leave all personal belongings, especially jewelry, money, credit cards etc, at home.
- No metallic objects can be in the MRI room because the MRI uses a large magnet. All metal jewelry and watches must be removed. Many hair products or attachable hair weaves contain magnetic particles and they must be removed - hair clips, ties, or pins that have metal in them. Do not wear any make-up; some is made with a metallic base. If you have any tattoos, be sure to tell the MRI technicians before your scan.
- Please let your doctor know if you have an artificial heart valve; a metal plate, pin or other metallic implant; an insulin pump or other infusion pump; a previous gun shot wound; or an inner ear implant.
- Generally there are no restrictions to your diet. And you may take your usual medications. Please check with your doctor about any special instructions.
- If you wear dentures, or partial dental plates, they must be removed.
During the Scan
- You will change into a hospital gown and be asked to remove all personal belongings, including anything with metal (i.e. jewelry, bank cards, make up, hearing aids, bras, etc.).
- You may need to be given a contrast dye before the exam to improve the quality of the images made by the machine. If so, a nurse will start an IV before or during the exam
- Let the MRI technologist know if you are hard of hearing without your hearing aide.
- During the scan, you will be lying on a firm table. The technologist will position you and put a coil either over or under you. (The coil helps to get a clear picture.) The table moves into the center of the MRI. The inside of the machine is like a giant tunnel that is well lit and open on each end. You will hear tapping, thumping and other noises. Earplugs or music may be provided to help block the noise.
- Though in another room, the technologist will be able to see and hear you during the test. Let them know if you need help. You can communicate through an intercom system.
- During the test, relax and try to lie as still as possible. Any movement will blur the picture.
After the Scan
- When scanning is complete you can return home and resume your normal activities, medications and diet.
- The test takes 30 to 60 minutes. When you are done, the technologist will return to assist you off of the table and you are free to go. The radiologist will interpret the pictures and send a report to your physician.