Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic test that promotes early detection of developing diseases and abnormalities. Doctors employ this non-invasive technique to see inside the human body in great detail without potentially harmful x-rays. MRI uses a safe but powerful magnet, radio waves (the same kind that transmit FM music) and a computer system. The result – clear pictures of your joints, brain or spine.
By understanding the MRI procedure, many claustrophobic patients find that their fears can be minimized.
Inform your referring physician and our staff in advance if you have ever experienced claustrophobia. If necessary, medication can be prescribed before your appointment. Please note that medication is not available on-site. Also, if you receive medication, bring someone with you who can drive you home, because it may not be safe to drive yourself. When you arrive for the exam, discuss your claustrophobia with your MRI technologist. He or she can provide earplugs and/or an eye mask to help reduce your anxiety. The technologist will work with you and take time to make you as comfortable as possible.
Factors such as a patient’s body weight, body habitus and scan type may determine whether or not the scan can be performed. The weight limit for our MRI equipment is 660 pounds.
Your scan will be performed by a radiological technologist under the supervision of a radiologist (doctor – M.D. or D.O.- who specializes in diagnosing disease and injury by interpreting medical imaging techniques).
Upon arriving for your appointment, you’ll be greeted by our front office staff and asked to complete a set of screening forms. (You can also complete the screening paperwork now.) After being escorted to your dressing room, the technologist will review your screening questionnaire, inform you about the exam, and answer any questions you have concerning your MRI scan.
Once in the exam room, the technologist will ask you to lie down on a cushioned table, which will automatically move into the MRI magnet after you have been comfortably positioned. The magnet has a wide-bore and is open on both ends. Your technologist will stay in contact with you throughout the exam via an intercom system and monitor you through a glass window. He or she will offer you ear plugs to reduce the noise level coming from the MRI.
When the MRI exam begins, you will hear a muffled thumping sound that will last for several minutes. (This is when the scanner takes its pictures.) You may also feel a slight vibration, which is normal. Just relax – even take a nap – but you must lie as still as possible since any movement can distort the image.
Other than sound and a slight vibration, you should experience no other sensation during scanning. When scanning is complete, the technologist will return to help you off the table.
For certain studies, the injection of a contrast agent called gadolinium may be necessary to help better visualize the area being examined. (Unlike contrast agents used in other radiology studies, gadolinium does not contain iodine and therefore rarely causes allergic reactions or side effects. But please tell the technologist if you have ever experienced an allergic reaction to MRI contrast in the past.) Prior to the injection, the technologist will review the contrast process and answer any questions you have concerning the injection.
The average MRI exam takes 20 to 60 minutes, depending on the type of scan your doctor ordered. It is important that you stay as still as possible during the exam. Any movement may cause the technologist to restart sequences to get better images for the radiologist to read. This will cause your time in the MRI to increase, prolonging the length of your exam.
Once your scan is complete, you may resume normal activities and diet. If you had a contrast injection, the technologist will review the post-contrast instruction sheet and phone numbers in case you experience any discomfort or a delayed reaction to the gadolinium.
Within 24 hours, your referring physician will receive the results through a written radiology report. He or she will then contact you to discuss the findings. For stat cases, our radiologist will contact your physician via phone and provide a verbal report.