What to expect from your MRI scan

19 June 2019

Magnetic resonance Imaging (MRI) is type of scan that uses strong magnetic fields and radiowaves to produce detail images of the inside of the body.

What is an MRI scan used for?

It can help to find out what is causing yours or your child’s problem and help your doctor to find the best treatment.

It provides a more detailed picture of your body then an ordinary X-ray. It is particularly good at identifying problems in the spine, brain and joints.

It is also helpful for looking at other parts of the body often when other types imaging have not given a full pictures. Unlike X-rays and CT (Computer Tomography) MRI scan do not use ionising radiation.

Noises during scan
The MRI is quite noisy. When the scanner is working it makes a loud banging noise. It is a bit like hearing roadworks or travelling on the underground. We will give you headphones and ear plugs to wear to reduce the noise. To help you feel more comfortable, we have a wide music selection you can listen to through the headphones.

Are there any risks?
MRI scan is very safe procedure for most patients. However patients with pacemakers and certain types of surgical implants for example cochlear implants cannot be scanned. As a precaution, MRI scans are not usually done on women who are less than 12 weeks pregnant.

You will be asked to complete and sign a safety questionnaire for yourself in order to make sure it is safe for you to go into the MRI room.

Preparing for an MRI scan

Before the day of the scan
An MRI scan is routinely done as an outpatient procedure. Most MRI scans need no special preparation. However, if you are having an abdominal or pelvic scan you may be asked to follow special instructions about eating and drinking.

On the day of your MRI scan
We understand that having a scan can potentially be a time of anxiety and worry. Our experience and caring medical staff will be there for you, holding your hand, every step of the way. When 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. We will also ask you to leave behind coins, keys and credit cards.

An MRI scan is painless. Depending on the type of scan you have, you may need to have an injection of a special dye (contrast medium), which makes certain parts of your body show up more clearly on the scan. We will talk to you about the possible risks and complications of having this procedure and how they apply to you.

During the procedure
During the scan, your radiographer will help position you on a special table that slides into the MRI scanner. The entire examination of one body area generally takes around 30 minutes (but can last up to an hour depending on the examination). You will be able to talk to your radiographer before the scan.

During the scan, you should breathe quietly and normally and keep very still as any movement will blur the images.

After the scan
As soon as the scan is finished, you will be able to go home or go back to the ward (if you are inpatient). You can eat and drink as normal and get back to your normal activities.

The picture taken during MRI examination are carefully studied by the radiologist (doctor trained in reading MRI scans to diagnose and treat illnesses) who will produce a detailed report.

This will be sent to the doctor who referred you for the scan. The results should be available to you at your next clinic appointment. Before you go home, please ask your radiographer when you can expect to get your results. If you haven’t been told the results within two weeks, call your doctor. If you have any questions or concerns, we’re ready to help.

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