What is an MRI?

MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging, and it is a very effective way for the Doctor to see inside your body. The MRI scanner is a large donut-shaped piece of equipment that uses a magnet to create clear images of your body. It does this by creating a magnetic field, sending radio waves through your body then measuring the response with a computer.

Sometimes, your Doctor may schedule an MRA for you. An MRA is an abbreviation for magnetic resonance angiography, and it is simply another kind of MRI scan which can be used to view veins and arteries.

Why do I need to have an MRI?

The images created by an MRI scanner are generally superior to other imaging methods. MRI gives a much more detailed view of the soft tissues inside your body. Images are created in narrow “slices” and can be taken from the side (sagittal), the front (coronal) or the bottom (axial), and this allows for the identification of even small abnormalities.

How is this test performed?

Typically, the Technologist will ask you to change into a hospital gown. You will be required to remove all jewelry or any other metal objects on your body. The Technologist will review a brief questionnaire with you which covers your medical history, and you will be asked to sign the questionnaire. Once that’s complete, you will be taken to the MRI machine where you will be asked to lie on a table which will slide you into the MRI machine.

The MRI machine makes a loud thumping noise. This is normal and nothing to be concerned about. The Technologist will provide earplugs.

Depending on the test you are having, the Technologist may place a device called a “coil” around your head or chest area. There is no pain involved in placing this coil.

Sometimes, your Doctor may order that you be injected with a contrast material to give a better view of the area that is being tested. A small needle will be placed in a vein in your arm so that the contrast may be injected into your body.

With the exception of the needle used for contrast, this test is painless. It usually takes 15 to 60 minutes depending on what tests your Doctor has ordered.

Do I need to do anything to prepare for this test?

The Technologist will typically ask you to change into a hospital gown. In some cases, you may be asked to have lab work prior to the test. Otherwise, there are usually no special preparations required to perform this test. You will be asked to remove all metal objects from your body. If you have any metal in your body, such as a stents, coils, aneurysm clips, pacemakers, pumps, other implantable devices or miscellaneous metal (such as metal in your eye) you should let your Physician or Technologist know immediately.

When will I get the results of my test?

Typically these results will be ready the next morning. If your appointment is the same day as your test, your Physician may review the results on the same day. Otherwise, the Physician may review them with you at your next scheduled appointment.

Are there risks involved in this test?

The most common risk is that you may be sensitive to the contrast. On rare occasions, you may experience nausea. In all cases, always tell your Physician or Technologist if you are pregnant.