What is an MRI Scan?
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) uses a magnet energy and radiofrequency to create an image of the internal structures of the body. Computer software analyzes the findings and uses the information from the scan to construct a 3-D picture of the inside of the body. MRI is especially useful for evaluating soft tissues like the brain, muscles and heart. Unlike CT scans and traditional X-rays, MRI does not use ionizing radiation.
How do you prepare for an MRI exam?
You may eat and drink as usual, unless you are to have a scan of your abdomen or pelvis--for these scans, you need to have nothing to eat or drink for 6 hours before your test. You may take your usual at-home medications as prescribed.
When you arrive for your exam, you will change into a hospital gown, since buttons, zippers, and other metal objects will affect the pictures. Please leave as much jewelry at home as possible. You should wear little or no eye make-up as this can also affect the quality of the pictures.
The presence of metal objects may not only affect the picture but could potentially be very unsafe and harmful in the strong magnetic field generated by the MRI machine. Please be sure to inform the technologist or the radiologist if you have had any metal objects within or on your body, such as pacemakers, aneurysm clips, or a prosthesis, including hearing aides or a cochlear implant. If you have any questions, please call the Graziadio Radiology Center.
What happens in the scan room?
If IV contrast is ordered as part of your MRI, the radiology RN will start an IV to infuse the contrast solution. Info re: observing for allergic reaction.
The MRI scanner consists of a large, donut-shaped magnet with a scanning table. The technologist will position you on the table, then position the table so that the area of the body to be scanned is in the center of the machine's "tube." The tube remains open on the end; you are not "closed in" although if you are lying on your back, the wall of the tube may be within inches of your face. During the exam, you will hear a series of loud knocking sounds. You must remain very still at this time, as this is when the pictures are being taken. Ear plugs will be supplied at the time of your exam, or you may request piped in music for your personal comfort.
Does MRI cause discomfort?
No. MRI is painless and non-invasive. You will hear loud noises, however, so you may want to wear ear-plugs or headphones, which we can provide.
What should you do if you are claustrophobic?
The answer to this depends on to what degree a small space makes you feel uncomfortable. If you have difficulty getting on an elevator, or dislike being in a room without windows, then you should inform us when we contact you before the exam via telephone. The Graziadio Radiology Center MRI unit features an enlarged scanner opening which helps patients feel less confined. The technologist, department RN and Radiologist will work with you to decide what is the best approach to assisting you to take the MRI exam. If you have any doubts about your ability to tolerate this test, please call us between the hours of 8:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M., Monday through Friday, at 310-517-4608. We have many options available to help you complete the scan successfully and with a minimum of stress.
How long will it take?
The length of time of the exam depends on the area of the body being studied. Multiple pictures are usually needed to complete the exam. Each set of pictures can take anywhere from a few seconds to fifteen minutes. A complete exam or two consecutive exams could take anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour. You can help the scan to be completed as quickly as possible by remaining as still as possible, especially when you hear the scanner taking the images.
After the exam
Drink lots of fluids for about 24 hour after your scan to flush the IV contrast material from you system.
How to get your results
Results are usually available in 3-4 days. Contact your physician who ordered the scan to discuss the results. The report describing the findings will automatically be sent to the ordering physician. If you would like a copy of this report, either ask your physician or contact the Radiology View Room in the Main Hospital at (310) 517-4677.