What You Should Know Before Having An MRI

African American doctor looking at MRI scans

MRIs are used to provide a detailed snapshot of what’s happening inside of your body. Magnetic resonance imaging uses a strong magnetic field, radio waves and a computer to monitor, treat and diagnose various parts of the body. Pregnant women commonly use MRIs to track the progress their unborn baby. You also might see professional athletes using this post-injury to see the status of the ailments doctors can’t see with a regular x-ray.

Because radiation is not used, there is no risk of exposure to radiation during an MRI procedure. However, due to the use of the strong magnet, MRI cannot be performed on patients with:

– Implanted pacemakers
– Intracranial aneurysm clips
– Cochlear implants
– Certain prosthetic devices
– Implanted drug infusion pumps
– Neurostimulators
– Bone-growth stimulators
– Certain intrauterine contraceptive devices; or
– Any other type of iron-based metal implants.

If contrast dye is used, there is a risk for allergic reaction to the dye. Patients who are allergic to or sensitive to medications, contrast dye, iodine, or shellfish should notify the radiologist or technologist. MRI contrast may also have an effect on other conditions such as allergies, asthma, anemia, hypotension (low blood pressure), and sickle cell disease.

Like surgery, there are some pre-planning measures to take before going in for an MRI to ensure the highest quality experience. Here’s your complete FAQ to preparing for your MRI.

When should I arrive?

Arrive 30 minutes prior to your exam and check in with the receptionist. The reception will have you complete an MRI screening form. If you’re required to change clothes, they’ll give you a locker to store your belongings in and give you a hospital gown to change into. A technologist will verify your screening form in consultation with the radiologist.

What is the experience like?

The procedure usually lasts for 45 minutes to an hour depending on the body part being scanned. You’ll be lying still, but don’t worry it won’t be too uncomfortable. Depending on which body part is being scanned you might be told to hold your breath for 30 seconds. The unit is well lit and there is a fan going for your comfort. While the imaging is going on you’ll hear some loud noises, so your doctor will give you some earplugs to drown out the sound. The technologist taking care of you during this time will also provide you with an alarm button to alert them if you’re experiencing any pain or discomfort during this time.