What is MRI?
MRI, Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a method used by physicians to look inside the human body to obtain diagnostic information, using advanced technology. MRI produces images of the body anatomy without the use of radiation as in x-rays and CT scanning. MRI utilizes magnetic fields, radio waves and computers to generate images of the soft tissues within the body in any plane. MRI can help provide a quick and more accurate diagnosis for your physician which in some situation can reduce the need for exploratory surgery and other diagnostic procedures which may have associated risks.
How does MRI operate?
MR images are formed by the computer which processes signals that are emitted by body tissues. These signals are generated by using a safe magnetic field in combination with radio waves of a specific frequency. Different tissue characteristics are revealed through this process and translated into different contrast levels on the images.
What is the MRI procedure like?
The examination is performed in a room that houses the MRI equipment. You will be asked to lie down on a comfortable padded table that gently glides you into the magnet. While the scanner is operating, you will hear some humming sounds. These are normal and should not worry you. In some cases, your doctor may have requested that you receive an injection of a contrast agent to give a clearer picture of the area to be examined. The most important thing for you to do is to relax and lie still. Most exams take 30 minutes or less. You will be told ahead of time just how long your scan is expected to take.
You will be easily seen by the technologist at all times. For your convenience, an intercom system or buzzer is built into the magnet so that if you should need anything at all, the technologist will be right there. Music is available during the scan. You may bring your favorite CD with you when you come for your exam.
What do you need to do to prepare for an MRI?
There is no special preparation necessary before an MRI examination. You can eat or drink before the exam. For MRCP however, no solid food or liquid for 4 hours prior to the exam. Do not wear anything metallic during the exam, so it would be best to leave watches, jewelry or anything containing metal at home. Even some cosmetics contain metal so don't wear makeup when you go to the MRI center.
Because of the magnetic field you will be asked to leave the following items in a safe place within the scan room: Coins, jewelry, watches, glasses, credit cards, keys, hair pins and other metal objects.
You may also be asked to remove makeup, dentures and wear a hospital gown to avoid magnetic interference from belt buckles or zippers. When you leave home for your MRI exam, be sure to have your insurance forms and doctor's prescription for the MRI exam with you. That will help reduce the time spent on paper work while you are at the center.
Is there anyone who cannot have an MRI?
People of all ages from very young children to very elderly people, have had MRI examinations. Because of the potential harmful effects associated with all metallic objects in a magnetic field, you should check with your physician or MRI center if you have had any brain, ear, eye or other surgeries or any of the following:
- Metal implants
- Aneurysm clips
- Surgical staples
- Implanted drug infusion device
- Foreign metal objects in the eye
- Shrapnel or bullet wounds
- Permanent eyeliner
If pregnant, you should notify your physician or our MRI center.
When will I know the results?
Once your MRI exam is completed, the pictures will be looked at by the radiologist, a specially trained physician who is able to interpret the scan for your doctor. The radiologist will send your doctor a written report. You should contact your physician within two days of your exam to make an appointment to go over your results and discuss your next step.