What is an MRI scan?
An MRI scan is a special technique that uses magnets and radio waves to produce both two and three dimensional pictures of the inside of your body.
MRI can help diagnose and monitor many different medical conditions. It’s suitable for every part of the body, including bones, soft tissues (such as blood vessels, ligaments and muscles) and the brain. (Image below courtesy of Siemens AG).
What does a private MRI scan involve?
If you’re having an MRI scan you’ll need to wear loose clothing without zips or metallic parts and to remove any jewellery, hearing aids, watches or glasses. You will also be asked to leave behind coins, keys and credit cards. The radiographer will help position you on the special table that slides into the scanner. You will be able to talk to him/her during the scan.
You will hear some noise - this is completely normal and is the sound of the MRI scan machine taking the images. You will be provided with earplugs or headphones and often you can choose to listen to music if you wish. During the private MRI scan, you should breathe quietly and normally and keep very still as any movement will blur the images.
This whole procedure will usually be repeated several times, and the entire examination generally takes around 30 minutes (but can last up to an hour depending on the examination.
Why choose a private MRI scan?
MRI scans can be used for a variety of purposes
- Joints and muscles
An MRI scan is often used to look at tissue around joints and bones and can help to diagnose injuries to the elbow, hip and knee. It can also detect conditions such as arthritis or tendon tears.
MRI scans can also capture images of the heart including the valves and blood vessels, helping to diagnose heart defects or disease. It may be used to examine the heart after a heart attack.
An MRI scan can be used to help analyse the brain for tumours, possible causes of a headache and abnormal tissue growth. MRI may also be used after a stroke to assess any damage to the brain.
Magnetic resonance imaging can produce detailed images of soft tissue which show the difference between normal and diseased tissue, such as a tumour. It can also check the progress of a tumour to establish whether it is shrinking or growing.
Can you get an MRI scan on the NHS?
The NHS waiting times can vary from weeks to months; so people can opt for a private MRI scan. If you have private medical insurance your MRI scan may be covered – check your policy or contact your insurer for confirmation.
Are there any risks associated with private MRI scans?
MRI scans are not suitable for everybody. For example, the magnetic field from the scan affects metals such as iron, nickel and steel. As a precaution, MRI scans are not usually done on women who are less than 12 weeks pregnant. When you arrive at the hospital, you may be asked some questions – about your health, previous operations, allergies and any medicines you are taking. This helps to ensure that it is safe for you to have an MRI scan.
Otherwise, MRI scans are considered very safe with no known side effects from exposure to magnetic or radio waves. Depending on the type of scan some patients may require the injection of a special dye (contrast medium); reactions to this dye are very rare and can usually be treated immediately.
What does an MRI scan cost?
Costs will depend on your specific requirements. Contact us today to find out more.
Other types of diagnostic scans
At Spire Healthcare, we offer a wide range of diagnostic scans in addition to private MRI scans to help you get to the root of the problem as quickly as possible. Find out more about X-Rays, CT scans, mammography and ultrasound.