Insight Imaging – Magnetic resonance imaging, more commonly known as an MRI, is one of the most common and effective technologies doctors use to identify, diagnose, and monitor a wide range of injuries or conditions throughout the body. Although an MRI is safe for most people, uses no radiation, and is a pain-free experience, it can be intimidating and anxiety-provoking when it is your first time and you are not sure what to expect. To help ease your worries and prepare you for your upcoming procedure, the following is a brief overview of how an MRI is used, including what to expect and tips everyone should keep in mind as you prepare for your appointment.
What is an MRI Scan and How is it Used?
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive diagnostic procedure that creates high-resolution 3-dimensional images of almost every internal structure of the body, including organs and tissues. Unlike x-rays which use radiation to capture images of bones or tissues, an MRI uses magnets and radio waves in a large cylindrical tube to generate images that are viewed on a monitor. An MRI is often used to identify conditions related to the brain and spinal cord, including aneurysms, multiple sclerosis, stroke, and brain injury. This technology can also identify tumors and other abnormalities in internal organs, as well as injuries in bones and joints.
5 Things You Can Do to Prepare for an MRI Scan
Communicate Clearly With Your Doctor
Although an MRI is safe for most people, it is important to let your doctor know if you have any underlying medical conditions, allergies, or if you are pregnant. For patients with claustrophobia, anxiety, or chronic pain that prevents you from being still in a confined space, sedation may be an option. You should also advise your doctor of any medical devices/metal in your body that could be a safety hazard or interfere with the procedure. This includes piercings, pacemakers, artificial implants (e.g. metal plates, rods, screws), neurostimulators, heart valves, and ear implants or hearing aids. Also inform your doctor of any medications you are taking before the procedure to ensure an MRI will be safe and meet your individual needs.
As with any appointment, it is recommended that you arrive at least 15 minutes early to check in. Remember to bring all necessary documents from your doctor, your insurance card and identification, and any patient information forms you may have filled out prior to the appointment. In most cases, there are no food, drink, or medication restrictions before an MRI. Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, feel free to eat and take your medications before the procedure. Most patients are able to drive home after an MRI. However, those requiring sedation will need to make arrangements for transportation.
It is important to be as comfortable as possible during an MRI scan. Patients should wear loose clothing with no metal, including buttons and zippers. Do not wear any jewelry, body piercings, dentures, wigs, deodorants, makeup, moisturizers, or anything else that may contain metal. When a contrast dye is required for the MRI, your arm will also need to be easily accessible to insert an IV catheter. If you are in doubt, it is always a good idea to check with your doctor ahead of time to avoid any complications with your appointment.
Don’t Be Nervous
From not knowing what to expect to worrying about your results, staying calm is probably the biggest challenge most patients will experience during an MRI. If the thought of being still in a small enclosed space is unsettling, there are a few tricks that can help you relax. Being familiar with the procedure and equipment, preparing for intermittent loud noises, and knowing what happens during the procedure will help put your mind at ease. Feel free to ask questions and let your doctor know about your worries. During the MRI, shutting your eyes and thinking of positive memories or a song that makes you happy can make the procedure less intimidating and help pass the time. Depending on the type of MRI, you may be offered headphones to play music. Remembering to take deep, controlled breaths will also help minimize any stress or tension you may be experiencing. Finally, bringing along a family member or friend to the appointment can help put you at ease and make the experience more comfortable.
Follow All Guidelines
Your doctor or technician may give you specific instructions before, during, and after the MRI, which are important to follow. During the MRI, you will lie flat on your back and slide into a metal tube. During the scan, it is critical that you are very still. A technician may ask you to make small movements or ask you questions. If you ever feel discomfort during the scan, be sure to let the technician know. It is not uncommon to feel slight lightheadedness from lying flat for an extended period of time, but most people are able to resume their activities as normal following the procedure. However, patients receiving sedatives will need to arrange for someone else to drive them home. If contrast dye was used during the procedure, allergic reactions are possible but rare. Inform your doctor if you experience signs of an allergic reaction, including hives, rashes, and shortness of breath.
Getting an MRI scan can be intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be stressful. Whether you are preparing for your first MRI or have experience with the procedure, coming prepared, dressing comfortably, and knowing what to expect will go a long way in making your experience positive. For more information on MRI scans or other imaging services at Insight, contact us today at (810) 275-9688.
Q: Are there any risks with getting an MRI scan?
A: An MRI scan is a safe radiation-free procedure with minimal risks for most people. Because an MRI uses a powerful magnet, it cannot be performed on people with internal metal objects. This includes implanted pacemakers, cochlear implants, neurostimulators, and plates, pins, and screws. An MRI may not be advised for pregnant patients or people with other medical conditions. As always, be sure to discuss your health history and concerns with your physician prior to the procedure.
Q: What information does an MRI provide?
A: An MRI uses magnetic and radio waves to provide detailed 3-dimensional images of the organs and other structures within the body. MRI technology is useful in identifying and diagnosing a wide range of conditions or injuries, including tumors, heart or lung damage, sports injuries, veins and arteries, brain abnormalities, and bone diseases.
Q: How long does an MRI last?
A: The average MRI takes 30 to 60 minutes to perform. However it can be shorter or longer depending on the number of images needed or the parts of the body being scanned. The time it takes to receive results also varies depending on the urgency of the condition and other factors. Most people can expect results within a few hours to a few days.