MRI Exam Preparation
Please note: This information is provided for the sole purpose of educating you as to the basics of the MRI examination. You should rely on your physician, or the MRI technologist for specific information about your own examination.
There’s no special preparation necessary for the MRI examination. Unless the booking clerk specifically requests that you not eat or drink anything before the exam, there are no food or drink restrictions. Continue to take any medication prescribed by your doctor unless otherwise directed.
You won’t 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. Even some cosmetics contain small amounts of metals, so it is best to not wear make-up. There is a safe place to lock up valuables if you can’t leave them at home.
In order to prevent metallic objects from being attracted by the powerful magnet of the MR system, you will be given scrubs to change into for your examination. 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, 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, you will be asked to fill out a screening form asking about anything that might create a health risk or interfere with imaging. You will also undergo an interview by a technologist to ensure that you understand the questions on the form. Even if you have undergone an MRI procedure before at this or another facility, you will still be asked to complete an MRI screening form.
Examples of items or things that may create a health hazard or other problem during an MRI exam include:
- Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)
- Aneurysm clip
- Metal implant
- Implanted drug infusion device
- Foreign metal objects, especially if in or near the eye
- Shrapnel or bullet wounds
- 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 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 technologist prior to the MRI procedure.
What is the MRI examination like?
The MRI examination is performed in a special room that houses the MR system or “scanner”. You will be escorted into the room by a technologist and asked to lie down on a comfortably padded table that gently glides you into the scanner. The magnet is 4feet long and whatever body part we are scanning goes to the middle of the magnet (2 ft).
You will be required to wear earplugs or headphones to protect your hearing because the scanner produces loud noises. These loud noises are normal and should not worry you.
For some MRI studies, a contrast agent called “gadolinium” may be injected into a vein to help obtain a clearer picture of the area being examined. At some point during the examination, a technologist will slide the table out of the scanner in order to inject the contrast agent. This is typically done through a small needle connected to an intravenous line that is placed in an arm or hand vein. Unlike contrast agents used in x-ray studies, MRI contrast agents do not contain iodine and, therefore, rarely cause allergic reactions or other problems. The booking clerk will inform you when scheduling your appointment if your exam will require contrast. Occasionally, this will not be determined until some images have been acquired and checked by the Radiologist.
The most important thing for the patient to do is to relax and lie still. Most MRI exams take between 30 to 45 minutes to complete depending on the body part imaged and how many images are needed. You’ll be told ahead of time how long your scan is expected to take.
You will be asked to remain perfectly still during the time the imaging takes place, but between sequences some minor movement may be allowed. The MRI Technologist will advise you accordingly.
During your MRI examination, the technologist will be able to speak to you, hear you and observe you at all times. Consult the technologist if you have any questions or feel anything unusual.
When the MRI procedure is over, you may be asked to wait until the images are examined to determine if more images are needed. After the scan, you have no restrictions and can go about your normal activities.
Once the entire MRI examination is completed, the pictures will be looked at by a radiologist, a specially-trained physician who is able to interpret the scans for your doctor. The radiologist will send your doctor a report. You should contact your doctor to go over your results and discuss your next step.