What You Should Know
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
is technology that allows a healthcare professional to get pictures of the internal, “non-bony” parts of your body to diagnose illness or injury. The MRI scanner is a huge, tube-shaped magnet that does not use X-rays to outline or see the spot your doctor or other provider wants to take a closer look at.
Before Your MRI
Ask your healthcare professional to explain why you need to have the procedure and what it will involve. Also ask how long the test will take, and when you will fi nd out the results.
There are two types of MRI machines: open and closed. Open MRI machines provide more open space around your head and body, but the pictures taken may not be as good as pictures taken in a closed MRI machine.
It is important to know in advance that when you are lying in the MRI machine you will have to remain very still so the pictures being taken will be as clear and accurate as possible. If you are afraid of closed spaces (claustrophobia), very nervous, or think you might not be able to lie still for a period of time, you should talk with your doctor and the MRI personnel. You may be able to have sedation or anesthesia to help you lie still or relieve your anxiety.
Sedation or Anesthesia for MRI
If you need or desire to have sedation or anesthesia for MRI, ask if your MRI facility offers these services. Talk with the professional who will provide your sedation or anesthesia so all your questions are answered. You will be told not to drink or eat before your MRI test. Be certain to tell the sedation or anesthesia professional about any allergies you may have, any medications you are taking (including herbal or over the counter products), or problems you or a family member have had with anesthesia. If you have sedation or anesthesia, a small intravenous needle will need to be placed in your hand or arm.
Your sedation or anesthesia professional will help position you on the MRI table and will watch over you throughout your procedure, constantly monitoring your blood pressure, your heart rate and rhythm, oxygen level, and respiration. During the test, an intercom allows you to talk to people at any time.
Young Children and MRI
Very young children will probably need sedation or anesthesia for the procedure. You should discuss exactly what to expect with your doctor and anesthesia professional. Then talk with your child about the procedure. Many MRI facilities allow a parent to stay in the room with the child.
What to Expect When You have Your MRI Test
The MRI machine makes a variety of loud clicking, knocking and banging noises. In a closed MRI machine, you may have diffi culty hearing. Ear protection is sometimes used by everyone in the area of the MRI machine. Special earphones for listening to music may also be allowed.
While the MRI procedure does not hurt at all, some patients may feel very warm or hot over the area being scanned. This is normal, but you should tell the MRI technologist if you are worried. Some patients have experienced burns if they are wearing a skin (transdermal) patch, such as a nicotine patch. It is best to remove any patches prior to entering the MRI room.
Before entering the MRI room, you will need to remove all metal. The MRI scanner is a powerful magnet, and the magnetic field is always active or “on.” Even the smallest metal objects can be pulled into the scanner by the magnet. When this happens, the metal objects can fly through the air and can cause injury to you or your healthcare provider. The MRI personnel will make sure you remove all metal and will assist you before, during, and after your MRI test.
Pacemakers and Other Implants
Tell the MRI personnel about any implants or devices you have, including pacemakers, implantable defi brillators, insulin pumps, dental implants and braces. If you have a pacemaker, you cannot have an MRI test.
MRI should also be used with caution in early pregnancy. MRI is generally not used in the
first 12 weeks of pregnancy unless there is a strong medical need to do so. There are other methods of imaging that can be used if you are pregnant.
Online Internet Resources
There are many benefits of having an MRI. More information can be found at the following:
Radiology Information: The Radiology Information Resource for Patients
Online MRI Video
MRI Article with Pictures, Video and Links to Terms
Specifi c MRI Procedures
MRI information/resources at Mayo Clinic
University of Virginia School of Medicine Department of Radiology & Medical Imaging
MRI for Children