Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a medical imaging technique that uses a magnetic field and computer-generated radio waves to create detailed images of the organs and tissues in your body. When you lie inside an MRI machine, the magnetic field temporarily realigns water molecules in your body. Radio waves cause these aligned atoms to produce faint signals, which create cross-sectional MRI images.
MRI Can Help Evaluate:
- Joint abnormalities caused by traumatic or repetitive injuries, such as torn cartilage or ligaments
- Disk abnormalities in the spine
- Bone infections
- Tumors of the bones and soft tissues
Anyone can get an MRI regardless of age. The only limitation is for pregnant women. If you are pregnant, the technicians will opt for ultrasound in place of an MRI scan.
Preparing for an MRI
Leave your valuables at home including jewelry to prevent it from being lost or stolen because they have to be removed prior to entering the scan room. If you need interpreting services, let your MRI company know beforehand and they’ll arrange this for you.
Bring a list of your current medications. If you experience anxiety related to claustrophobia, your doctor may prescribe an oral medication for you to take for your MRI appointment.
What can I Expect Before My Exam?
Take your daily medications as you normally would unless instructed otherwise. Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to your exam to check in with the receptionist. You will need to complete the MRI screening forms/paperwork. To eliminate possible MRI safety issues, you will change into a hospital gown. You can secure your belongings in a provided locker.
A technologist will verify your identification and the requested exam. Your technologist will review your screening form. If an MRI contrast is indicated for the exam, an IV catheter will be inserted in your arm by a nurse or technologist.
How can I Help Prepare My Child for an MRI Scan?
MRI examinations require the patient to hold still for long periods of time. Some establishments provide compatible Cinema Vision goggles so children can watch movies during their scan. Children can choose from a movie list or even bring a movie with them.
If your child has never had an MRI scan before, they may be a bit nervous at first. We understand that the examination can be a bit stressful, but there is no reason to fear the MRI machine. Having an MRI is a painless, completely safe procedure.
What to Expect Before the Procedure:
On the day of the MRI, you won’t have to do much to prepare. The only real precaution the radiologist will give to you is to not wear any metal. If there are any special instructions, your radiologist will outline them all when the MRI is initially scheduled so you will have ample time to prepare. For example, they may ask you to refrain from eating about an hour or two before the test, but usually, you will not need to make any special preparations.
What Can I Expect During My MRI Scan?
The duration of the procedure will vary but the average is 45 minutes to one hour per body part. You need to lie still during the actual MRI scanning. Depending on the body part, you may need to hold your breath for up to 30 seconds.
There is also a two-way intercom system for communication between patients and technologists. The part of the body being scanned will be placed in the middle of the magnet. During the actual imaging, you will hear a loud intermittent banging noise. You receive either earplugs or headphones to minimize the noise during the procedure. The technologist will also provide you with an alarm button to alert them of any discomfort you may experience at any point during the MRI exam. Some MRI exams require an injection of intravenous contrast.
What can I Expect After My MRI?
If a dye injection is used, the IV is removed from the arm before you go home. Allergic reaction from gadolinium dye is extremely rare. However, if you experience symptoms such as rash hives or shortness of breath you should notify the technologist immediately. If you have left the imaging facility call your doctor or go to the nearest hospital
If sedated, you can return home once awake and alert. However, you will need a driver to take you home from the scan.
Because of the strong magnetic field used during the exam, certain conditions may prevent you from having an MRI procedure.
- History of Kidney problems
- Skins Tattoos
- Implanted drug infusion device (insulin pump)
- Exposure of metal fragments to your eye
- Artificial heart valves
- Aneurysm clips
- Cochlear implants
- Metallic implants and prosthesis
- Vascular stent or stent-graft
- History as a metal worker
- Shrapnel or bullet wounds
- Dorsal column stimulators
- Allergy to iodine, or gadolinium
- History of Diabetes
Discuss these conditions with the receptionist prior to an MRI and they will be able to guide you on precautions and alternative scanning options.
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