What is an MRI scan?
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a method of looking inside the body. Instead of X-rays, the MRI scanner uses a strong magnet and radio waves to produce remarkably clear pictures of the head, spine, or other parts of the body. MRI produces soft-tissue images and is used to distinguish normal, healthy soft tissue from unhealthy tissue. Depending on what information your doctor needs, the MRI scan may require the use of a contrast-agent given intravenously to assist in seeing certain structures in your body.
MRI is a non-invasive and safe test. As MRI works with a strong magnet and radio waves, any metal on your body can affect the quality of the diagnostic images. It can also cause discomfort or even injury to you when placed into the magnetic field. It is also important for us to know if you are pregnant. Please tell us if anything on the following list applies to you or the person who accompanies you into the exam room:
- Aneurysm clip(s)
- Cardiac pacemaker
- Implanted cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)
- Electronic implant or device
- Magnetically activated implant or device
- Neurostimulation system
- Spinal cord stimulator
- Cochlear implant or implanted hearing aid
- Insulin or infusion pump
- Implanted drug infusion device
- Any type of prosthesis or implant
- Artificial or prosthetic limb
- Any metallic fragment or foreign body
- Any external or internal metallic object
- Hearing aid
Preparing for an MRI
No special preparation is needed before the exam, unless your doctor has given you other instructions. You will be asked to complete a safety screening form and answer questions pertaining to your medical history. Please wear loose clothing without zippers or metal parts. Remove all jewelry, watches, hairpins, glasses, wallets and other metal objects.
What happens during an MRI scan?
After you have removed all metal objects, the technologist will position you on a special table. Your head will be placed in a padded plastic cradle or on a pillow, and the table will then slide into the scanner. Thanks to GE’s remarkably short 105 cm magnet, over 60 percent of all typical MRI exams can be done with your head outside the machine. This lets you communicate with the technologist during the scan.
For clear pictures, you will be asked to hold very still and relax. In some cases, you will be asked to hold your breath. Any movement, especially of your head or back (even moving your jaw to talk) during the scan will blur the pictures. You should breathe quietly and normally but otherwise refrain from any movement, coughing or wiggling. This whole procedure will usually be repeated several times, and the entire exam ordinarily takes approximately 30 minutes to complete.
Finding out the results
The radiologist will study your examination and will give the report to your referring physician. Then your doctor will discuss the results with you.