Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

What is an MRI?

An MRI is a high-tech scanner that uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to gather information on soft tissues, such as the brain or spinal cord. A computer converts the information into an image that is permanently recorded.

When you first arrive for your scheduled MRI, you will report to the reception area located in the ER waiting area. Here you will check in and fill out any necessary paperwork for your exam. Jewelry, watches, coins, keys, and credit cards are incompatible with the magnetic resonance imaging procedure, so we ask that you leave these items at home. Metal objects can inhibit radio frequency waves from getting into the body and thus produce distorted images. Certain articles of clothing, such as metal zippers, rivets, wires and belt buckles, are also incompatible with the imaging procedure for the same reasons.

The Imaging Equipment

You will be imaged in a tubular device approximately 24 inches (60 cm) in diameter. If your feet or knees are being imaged, your head will be outside of

the magnet. If your head, shoulder, or chest is being imaged, your feet will be outside of the imager. Some claustrophobic individuals get anxious in situations like this, but be assured that you are in constant intercom contact with the technologists in the control room and can get out at any time. When you first lie on the bed of the imager, the technologist will move your body to position a specific area of your body at a crossed light beam. This spot on your body will be advanced to the isocenter of the magnet before the scan begins. This process is called landmarking.

The Exam

Your exam will last between 30 and 60 minutes. You will need to lie still for periods of 3 to 10 minutes at a time while the series of images are collected. You can breathe freely during this time. You may, in some cases, be allowed to move slightly between scans, but not so much that your position changes dramatically. The imaging session creates a series of repetitive knocking sounds when the magnetic field gradients are turned on and off during the procedure.

Your Results

In medicine, the diagnosis of disease is rarely the result of a single exam or test performed by a single individual. Your primary care physician takes advantage of input from many specialists. One of these specialists is the radiologist. A radiologist is a medical doctor trained to interpret the information in magnetic resonance images. A radiologist will read the magnetic resonance images from your scan, and provide your physician with a report. Your physician will share the findings from the radiologist and other medical specialists with you.