What To Expect

Instructions for Patients Receiving an MRI

Before undergoing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), patients should prepare for the test using the following instructions and guidelines.

Before the MRI

  1. If your doctor has given you the order for the exam, bring it with you to the appointment.
  2. Your test may have been scheduled with sedation. If you need to be given a drug to make you drowsy, a nurse will give you more instructions.
  3. You may take all medicines. You may eat and drink unless you are having an MRCP, a specific exam for your gallbladder.
  4. You will be asked to fill out a patient history form before your exam.
  5. A non‐iodine contrast medication may be injected into your vein through an IV line to make a better, clearer picture. Notify your physician and the MRI technologist if you have had a reaction to gadolinium in the past. Notify your technologist if you receive dialysis or have kidney disease.
  6. Tell your doctor and the MRI technologist if you have any metal objects inside of your body. These may include a pacemaker, aneurysm clips, a metal plate, and staples from recent surgery or prosthesis.
  7. Tell your doctor and the MRI technologist if there is flying metal debris where you work. If any debris has ever been lodged in your eyes, this test may harm your retina. The radiologist may order an X‐ray to see if there is any metal in eye.
  8. Remove all metal items such as hair clips, jewelry, watches, hearing aids and dentures. Credit cards will be erased if brought into the MRI. You will be asked to change into a gown for your exam.
  9. Tell your doctor and the MRI technologist if you suffer from claustrophobia (fear of being closed in).

During an MRI

  1. The MRI unit looks like a large metal donut. The center hole is open on both ends. You will lie on a padded table that moves into the tunnel. The scanning is done while you are in the center.
  2. You must lie still. Stay relaxed inside the MRI unit. Movement can distort the image.
  3. The test takes 20 to 90 minutes. You will be made as comfortable as possible.
  4. You will be given a squeeze button to call the technologist if you need anything. The staff will also be able to watch you at all times through a glass window. You will be given earplugs to wear, but you will still be able to hear and talk with MRI staff through a microphone. Please notify the technologist if you have any problems during the MRI.
  5. A coil might be placed around the part of your body being scanned such as your head, knee or abdomen. This coil is really a special radio receiver that improves the picture and is usually contained in hard white plastic. If the coil begins to become uncomfortable during the scan, tell the MRI technologist.
  6. At certain times you will hear thumping noises. These noises are caused by the changing magnetic fields. You will feel air moving as fans move the air within the tunnel.
  7. You may have someone with you in the room if you wish. This may help if you start to feel anxious. You may also listen to music through headphones while in the scanner. If you are very claustrophobic, your doctor may give you a mild sedative, or your MRI may be scheduled with sedation. If so you will need to have someone drive you home after the test.
  8. The test is painless, though if your test requires gadolinium contrast this is applied in a vein through a needle. The test is very safe. If you feel that you are having more pain or symptoms following the MRI, notify the technologist before leaving.

After the MRI

If you feel pain or any unusual symptom following the exam, contact your referring physician. You can be as active as you like after the MRI unless you were given a sedative. Check with your doctor about this. The pictures taken during the test will be reviewed by a radiologist. Your results will then be given to your doctor, who will discuss them with you.