MRI Scan (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
MRI uses a very strong magnetic field and pulsed radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of your body. The scanner itself resembles a short tunnel, which is open at both ends. MRI scanners produce very detailed images from different angles that allow the Radiologist to see tiny changes. This accuracy allows early detection of disease and injury, and is the investigation of choice for many neurological and musculoskeletal conditions.
MRI scanners do not use radiation (X-Rays) and have no known side-effects. The scan is normally painless, but can be very noisy.
Preparing for your MRI examination
Not all patients are suitable for an MRI Scan, and it is very important that you tell us if any of the following applies to you:
- You have a pacemaker
- You have had an injury to your eyes involving metal splinters/fragments
- You have ever had an operation on your head, heart or ears
- You have any type of metal implant, clip, stent or staple
- You are, or may be, pregnant
If you suffer from claustrophobia, you may need additional support during the scan. Please contact us using the number on your appointment letter if you would like to speak to a member of the team about this. There may be other imaging options available, depending on the area to be scanned.
Your appointment letter will contain any necessary instructions about eating, drinking and medication as well as a safety questionnaire that you will need to complete before the scan.
It is important that you remove all metal objects from your body before the MRI scan, this includes:
- Wigs/hair extensions
- Hearing aids
- Belts, Buckles, bras with underwiring
- Certain sportswear contains metallic fibres which you may be asked to remove prior to the MRI examination
The MRI examination
On arrival, patients are greeted by a radiographer and will be asked to remove any metal objects and you may be asked to change into a hospital gown.
The Radiographer will go through your safety questionnaire with you, and you will be able to ask any questions you may have to ensure that you feel comfortable.
For safety reasons, we don’t normally allow anyone accompanying you to come into the examination room whilst you are having your MRI scan.
You will be taken to the scanner room, where the full procedure will be explained further. You will be asked to lie down on the examination couch and made comfortable. You will be given ear plugs and headphones to help mask the noise of the scanner. It is important to lie perfectly still for the duration of the examination so that the images are not blurred.
The area of the body to be examined needs to be in the centre of the scanner, so you may enter it head or feet first. You will be given a buzzer to hold which you can press to alert the radiographer and pause the scan if necessary.
The Radiographer can see and hear you at all times during the scan and will be able to talk to you throughout the examination.
The examination consists of several sequences or scans, each lasting a few minutes with a short pause between each one. The Consultant Radiologist will have protocolled which sequences are necessary for you and the examination will usually take between 20-90 minutes, depending on the size of the area being scanned and the number of sequences.
It is sometimes necessary to supplement your examination with an injection of an MRI contrast agent or ‘dye’. This will help show up some structures within your body more clearly. The injection should not affect your ability to drive home in any way.
MRI Contrast Agent
We may need to give you a contrast injection to increase the amount of information we can get from the scan.
MRI contrast contains gadolinium and there is an extremely low risk of having an allergic reaction to it. In the rare event that this does happen, our Radiographers and medical teams are trained to deal with any situation that may arise.
The MRI examination is quite noisy and you will be given ear protection to reduce the level of discomfort caused by this noise.
The scanner is equipped with a sound system and has the option to listen to the radio. Please advise the hospital if you wish to listen to something specific and they can let you know if this can be accommodated within the scanner.
Your scan results
Once the examination is completed, the images will be reported by a Consultant Radiologist and the results sent to the referring clinician (your doctor).
We are unable to discuss your results with you immediately after the examination, as your Doctor or Consultant will do this with you at your follow-up appointment.