Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRI is one of the most powerful tools available to radiologists today. MRI has become the preferred procedure for evaluating and diagnosing a large number of potential problems in many different parts of the body. In general, MRI creates pictures that show differences between healthy and unhealthy tissue. Doctors can use MRI to examine the brain, spine, joints (e.g., knee, shoulder, wrist, and ankle), abdomen, pelvic region, breast, blood vessels, heart and other body parts. It uses powerful magnetic fields and radio waves instead of x-rays to create detailed images of the body. It is a non-invasive imaging procedure that detects diseases and conditions in their earliest stages, including many common types of cancer. In addition to enabling an early diagnosis, MRI scanning makes it possible to assess the degree to which a disease has progressed and to make judgments about effective therapy.

In addition, MRI is a superb tool for evaluating orthopedic and joint ailments, most sports injuries, and herniated discs in the spine.

What should I expect?

In most cases, the procedure takes 40-80 minutes while several dozen images are obtained. Sometimes a contrast material is given through a vein during the exam. You will be lying on a flat table during the scan, and you will hear a knocking sound during the procedure. We will provide you with ear plugs to help with the noise. While the exam is taking place, it is important that you remain very still to ensure clear diagnostic results.

Some patients experience claustrophobia during the exam. We are very experienced and have tools available to help alleviate anxiety. Patients are encouraged to bring their own CDs or MP3 players to listen to their own selection of music.

How to prepare for the MRI examination

No special preparation necessary for the MRI examination. Unless your doctor specifically requests that you not eat or drink anything before the exam, there are no food or drink restrictions unless you are having an abdominal MRI. Continue to take any medication prescribed by your doctor unless otherwise directed.

Please let us know if you have had a previous MRI on the same region of your body so the radiologist can compare. The finalized report will be sent to your referring provider.

You will not be allowed to wear anything metallic during the MRI examination, so it would be best to leave watches, jewelry or anything made from metal at home.

In order to prevent metallic objects from being attracted by the powerful magnet of the MR system, you can wear clothing that does not have metal, or we can give you something to change into. Items that need to be removed by patients before entering the MR system room include:

  • Purse, wallet, money clip, credit cards, cards with magnetic strips
  • Electronic devices such as beepers or cell phones
  • Hearing aids
  • Metal jewelry, ALL body piercings, watches
  • Pens, paper clips, keys, coins
  • Hair barrettes, hairpins
  • Any article of clothing that has a metal zipper, buttons, snaps, hooks, underwires, or metal threads
  • Shoes, belt buckles, safety pins

Before the MRI procedure, the technologist will fill out a screening form asking about anything that might create a health risk or interfere with imaging.

Examples of items or things that may create a health hazard or other problem during an MRI exam include:

  • Pacemaker
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)
  • Neurostimulator
  • Aneurysm clip
  • Metal implant
  • Implanted drug infusion device
  • Foreign metal objects, especially if in or near the eye
  • Permanent cosmetics or tattoos
  • Dentures/teeth with magnetic keepers
  • Other implants that involve magnets
  • Medication patch (i.e., transdermal patch) that contains metal foil

Check with the MRI technologist or radiologist at the MRI center if you have questions or concerns about any implanted object or health condition that could impact the MRI procedure. This is particularly important if you have undergone surgery involving the brain, ear, eye, heart, or blood vessels. Important Note: If you are pregnant or think that you could be pregnant, you must notify your physician and the MRI technologist.