What is MRI?
MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. A combination of a strong magnet and radio waves produces detailed pictures of the inside of your body in any plane. Unlike x-rays and CT (Computerised Tomography) scans, MRI scans do not use radiation.
An MRI scan can help us find the cause of your problem and the best treatment options for you. MRI scans are particularly good at identifying problems in the spine, brain and joints and are much more detailed than a standard x-ray.
Preparation for your scan.
Please check your letter carefully for any specific information about preparing for your MRI scan.
- Which of our 6 scanners is your appointment at?
- What time do you need to attend (Some scans require you to be here 1 hour early)
- Mobility issues; please let the bookings clerks know, as this may affect which scanner you are booked into.
Metal In Eyes: If you think that you have ever had an accident involving metal fragments in your eyes (e.g. from welding or grinding) then you must phone our bookings clerks to arrange to come in to possibly have your eyes x-rayed. This can be done on another day prior to your scan or you could come in early on the day of your scan to allow time for the x-ray.
Clothes: You may prefer to arrive for your scan in clothes which do not contain metal. If you do this you may not have to change for your scan. It will not be a problem if you do need to get changed.
Claustrophobia: The scanner is a short tunnel, so if you suffer from claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces) please let us know before you come for your scan. Many patients worry about this aspect of the scan but find that it isn’t as bad as they had imagined or been told. If necessary, somebody can stay with you in the scan room during the scan.
Scan Preparation: Your letter will state if you need to stop eating/drinking or taking certain mediations before your scan. Please read this carefully.
Medical Implants: If you have anything in or on your body that you weren’t born with please make this known to the bookings clerks.
What will happen?
When you arrive a member of staff will complete a safety checklist with you to make sure that you can be scanned, and will answer any questions that you may have.
You will need to remove all metal objects such as belts, wallets, jewellery, hair grips, hearing aids etc before entering the scan room. You can leave these and other valuables in the lockers provided. Please do not wear mascara if you are having a scan of your head or eyes. Depending on your scan we may ask you to change into a gown if you are wearing clothes that contain metal.
The radiographer will ask you to lie on the scanner bed and position you correctly. Every effort will be made to make you comfortable as you will need to keep very still during the scan to avoid blurring the pictures.
If we are scanning your chest or abdomen, we may ask you to hold your breath for a moment during each scan.
There is a chance that we may have to give you an injection of contrast medium as part of your scan. See ‘Contrast Media’ section below.
You will have a camera placed over the area we are scanning. You will be given head phones, as the scan is very noisy, and a call-bell to alert the radiographer during your scan. The radiographer will talk to you throughout the scan.
A scan usually takes 20 - 30 minutes, depending on the area of your body that is being scanned. Although we try to keep to appointment times sometimes scans can take longer than anticipated due to technical reasons or patient condition. If we are running late when you attend for your appointment we would appreciate your understanding.
MRI is a completely harmless procedure, but the scanner is very noisy when it is taking pictures so we will provide you with ear protection. We will be able to play music during your scan so you might like to bring a CD with you to listen to.
Sometimes we need to give you an injection of contrast dye before or during the scan. This contains gadolinium, which is very safe but can very rarely cause allergic reactions. Unlike some other contrast media it does not contain Iodine.
For some abdominal and gynaecological scans we will need to give you a drug called Buscopan which is necessary to relax the bowel for a short while thus reducing movement blurring on the pictures.
Before giving you any drugs or contrast media we will check thoroughly that it is safe to do so and ask for your consent.
If you are pregnant, national safety guidelines recommend that we do not carry out an MRI scan unless it is clinically urgent. The doctor who refers you for the scan will decide with the radiologist (doctor who reads the scan) if your scan is necessary or if it can wait until after your pregnancy. Many pregnant women have had MRI scans with no reported problems.
Please do not hesitate to contact the department if you have any concerns about this.
What happens after the scan?
As soon as the scan is finished, you can go home or back to your ward if you are an inpatient.
If you have had contrast media we may keep you for a short while after your scan is finished.
You can eat, drink and resume normal activities straightaway.
The results will be sent to the doctor who referred you. If you make an appointment 2 weeks after your scan, your results should be available. For urgent problems, the results will be available sooner.
If you are an inpatient, the results will be given to the doctors looking after you on the ward.