What is an MRI?
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a test that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make
pictures of organs and structures inside the body.
MRI is done for many reasons. It may be used to find problems such as tumors, bleeding, injury, blood vessel diseases, or infection. It may also be used to provide more information about a problem seen on an X-ray, ultrasound scan, or CT scan, or show problems that cannot be seen on other imaging methods at all.
What to Expect During Your Exam
When you arrive in the department you will be asked to fill out a short patient screening form. The technologist will also ask you various questions about your symptoms and explain the exam to you. The actual MRI scan is a painless non-invasive test and will only last about 35 minutes.
The table you lie on may feel hard even though it has a cushioned pad. The room temperature will be cool in order to keep the scanning equipment operating optimally. Warm blankets are available for your comfort.
The technologist will place you in an optimal position to obtain the images requested by your physician, and a device called a coil will be placed over the area to be scanned.
The technologist will need to complete the exam from the control room. However, they will remain in contact with you through a two way intercom, and watch you through a window in the control booth.
Some patients may have some discomfort from holding the position the technologist has placed them in, or from lying on their back for an extended period of time.
It will be extremely important for you to lie still during the exam or your images may be blurry.
Please take the time to speak with your doctor before your exam to discuss ways to alleviate your discomfort during your exam. The MRI department, in conjunction with anesthesia, offers a broad variety of sedation options if necessary. However, both your physician and anesthesia must agree on the need for sedation prior to your exam day.
During the actual exam, the table will slide into the round opening of the scanner and you will hear a loud knocking or buzzing. This is a completely normal result of the magnetic gradients being applied to produce an image.
You will be provided with noise reducing head phones, and be able to listen to your favorite music during the exam.
Some MRI scans require a dye or contrast material called Gadolinium to be administered through an IV in your arm. This contrast does not contain Iodine, but will allow us to see your organs, arteries and veins more clearly.
This contrast may make you feel warm or slightly flushed or you may have a slight metallic taste in your mouth. Some patients also state they experience the smell of sulfur after the injection. These are very common reactions and typically go away within a few minutes. The contrast will be eliminated naturally from your body in a few hours.
After the Test is Completed
Once the technologists have completed all of the windowing (adjustment of gray scales), measurements and reconstructions necessary to interpret your exam it will be sent electronically to a Radiologist to be read. Following radiologist dictation, a medical transcriptionist will type a report and send it to your physician. The post exam processes; exam dictation, report transcription, radiologist review of report and signature, usually takes 2-3 business days.
Your physician does have several options at his or her disposal to obtain immediate results for critical or emergent clinical situations.