MRI frequently asked questions

Do you have questions about the services that we offer? Below is a list of some frequently asked questions, along with our answers.

Q: Can anybody have an MRI scan?

A: No; there are certain significant contra-indications to MRI.

For example if you have a ,cardiac pacemaker, you should not have an MRI. It could be potentially fatal. There may be certain parts in the pacemaker that may be adversely affected by the magnetic field of the MRI scanner, causing the apparatus to malfunction or cease operating.

Other Contra-Indications:

Aneurysm clips. These are metallic clips that have been surgically clipped around a bleeding vessel. Some aneurysm clips are MRI safe; some are not. You need to check with the surgeon who installed the clips to be sure the manufacturer has tested it and found it to be MRI safe before booking your MRI.

Other conditions that need to be investigated before an MRI scan can be safely undertaken are:

Metal heart valves
Metal Implants
Drug Infusion Devise/Pump
Ear Implants
Inferior Vena Cava filter
Metal Objects in Eyes
Surgical Staples or Wires Bone or Joint Replacements
Metal Plates, Rods, Pins or Screws
Penile Implants
Vascular Coils and Filters

If any of the above apply to you, be sure to make the radiographer and staff at the MRI Centre aware in advance, and also tell the doctor who is referring you for an MRI scan. They will be able to tell you if it is safe for you to have the MRI scan. In most cases you will be able to have the scan, but please leave that decision to the professionals. On arrival at the MRI Centre you will be asked to complete an MRI Safety Questionnaire which will cover all of the above.

Note: Anyone accompanying the patient to any area near the MRI scanner is subject to the same dangers and will have to complete a Safety Questionnaire before entering the magnet room.

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Q: Is there any danger in having an MRI scan?

A: YES. For some people it is contraindicated as explained in the previous answer.

Q: What is MRI and how does it work?

A: MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. An MRI scanner allows radiologists to view detailed images in cross-section of certain areas in the body without using interventional techniques or ionising radiation (x-rays). The MRI scanner uses a combination of a strong magnetic field, radio frequency waves and computer technology to produce very clear images of human anatomy and to detect areas of abnormality. The clarity of anatomical detail on MRI imaging is superior to other diagnostic imaging modalities.

Q: What do I have to do to prepare myself for an MRI?

A: The first step is to be certain that it is safe for you to have an MRI scan.

Preparing for an MRI exam is easy. Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, please take your medications as usual. There are no food or drink restrictions.

The only unusual preparation for an MRI scan is that all removable metallic objects must be left outside the scanning room. These include jewellery, keys, watches, coins, eyeglasses, removable hearing aids, dentures and prosthetic devices.

Credit cards should not be brought anywhere near the MRI magnet. Since they are magnetically coded, the MRI’s magnet, which is very powerful, can easily corrupt the information stored on them.

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Q: Should I avoid eating certain things before the MRI?

A: There are no food or drink restrictions.

Q: Does it hurt? Will I feel anything?

A: There is no pain associated with this MRI scan. Unlike many other MRI scanners, ours is quiet, comfortable and non-claustrophobic.

Q: I've heard that some MRI scanners induce claustrophobic reactions. Do yours?

A: Our scanner is an Open MRI and very patient friendly. There are no tunnels or tubes to go into. Our scanner is quiet, comfortable, and non-claustrophobic and you can even watch television during your scan as long as you keep still.

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Q: Will my insurance cover the cost of the MRI?

A: You will need to contact your insurance company before booking the MRI scan and if they agree to cover the cost they will give you authorisation details which you need to bring with you to the MRI Centre.

Q: Do I need a doctor´s referral letter for an MRI?

A: We would prefer a referral via a clinical professional. If your doctor refers you to have an MRI scan he/she will write a letter or complete our referral form with your clinical details to help the MRI radiologist provide the best possible diagnostic report. Usually the doctor will send this form in advance of your appointment but occasionally you will be asked to bring it with you when you come for your MRI exam.

Q: What should I bring with me when I come for my MRI?

  • The referral letter / form from your doctor
  • Your insurance company details if applicable
  • Some way of paying, if you are paying yourself ie. Visa / debit / credit card.

Q: What will the MRI staff want to know about me?

A: The doctor and MRI radiographer will ask you questions about your medical history. This will be in the format of MRI Safety Questionnaires. They will check to see if it is safe for you to have an MRI scan. If you are not sure if it is safe for you, click here.

The receptionist will also ask you for certain insurance information, so bring your insurance details with you.

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Q: How should I dress? Will I have to wear any special clothing?

A: When it comes to how to dress for an MRI scan, the main thing to be aware of is that metal can degrade or ruin MRI images. Therefore, you should wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing, but keep in mind that metal must be avoided in or near the region where you are going to be scanned. The radiographer may decide to ask you to change into a gown as some modern textile cause artefacts on images.

All body-pierced jewellery must be removed.

If you are having a scan in the head or neck area, remove all makeup (some makeup has metallic particles in it) and all metallic items such as hair clips, earrings, and facial jewellery. Please notify the radiographer if you have any facial tattoos, such as eyeliner or eyebrow tattoos.

Don't worry. If you do not have suitable clothing, we will give you a gown.

Q: What will happen?

A: Depending on the type of scan your doctor has requested, the radiographer may position a “coil” around the region of your body that is to be scanned. This will pick up intensified signal from that area. For example if you are having a head scan, your head will rest in a special head support / coil to ensure the best images are acquired. Once you are comfortably positioned, the radiographer will start the scan.

At that point, all you have to do is be as absolutely still as you possibly can until the MRI scan is over – the stiller the better. The reason you have to lie still is that movement blurs the MRI images. Depending on what your doctor ordered and the area being scanned, the procedure will take between 15 and 45 minutes, made up of a number of different scan sequences each sequence taking a few minutes. The radiographer will be able to tell you how long it should take. You won't feel anything, but you will hear some low-volume, intermittent, rumbling noises throughout the scan. These sounds are normal. Our scanners are very quiet in comparison to "tunnel" MRI scanners whose sounds are sometimes described as firing machine guns or rattling garbage cans.

A microphone will be placed near you so you will be able to speak to the staff at any time during the scan. If you like, someone can be with you in the scanner room, provided it's safe for the person to be there. (A visitor is subject to the scanner's magnetic field too. So please make sure it is safe for the visitor to be in the scanner room.) It is common for a parent to stay with a child.

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Q: How long will it take?

A: That depends on what part of the body is to be scanned and whether or not your doctor has ordered any special or extra scans. Normally, the entire scan takes between 15 and 45 minutes.

Q: Will I be able to drive after I have the exam?

A: Yes. The MRI has no known physiological side effects. However, if you have taken a sedative, there may be some restrictions.

Q: Will I be getting an injection?

A: In certain situations, it may be necessary to inject a patient with a contrast agent in order for the proper diagnosis to be ascertained. The radiologist will make that decision. In our experience, approximately 5 to 10 percent of patients require a contrast agent. For example, MRI exams of regions containing scar tissue from a previous surgical procedure are often best evaluated with the aid of a contrast agent.

The contrast agent is injected intravenously into the arm. The procedure is performed by a qualified healthcare professional. There are potential side effects. If you require the contrast agent, you will be made fully aware of possible side effects prior to the injection.

Q: Is it OK to have an MRI if I'm pregnant?

A: If you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant, you must first consult with the physician before you have an MRI scan. You must also inform the staff at the MRI scanning centre. We do not routinely scan patients’ abdomen or pelvis within the first 3 months of pregnancy. No side effects have yet been proved but we remain very cautious.

It has not been shown that MRI is harmful to unborn children. However, if you choose to have the MRI, you will be asked to sign a consent form.

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Q: Can someone else stay with me in the MRI scanner room?

A: Yes. Since our MRI scanner is open, there is ample space for someone to accompany you into the scanner room, even hold your hand during the scan. Warning: The person accompanying the patient will be exposed to the scanner's magnetic field just as the patient is, so please make sure it is safe for the visitor to be there.

Q: When will I find out the results?

A: You won't find out at the time of the scan. The results of your MRI scan will be faxed and/or mailed directly to your doctor, normally within 48 hours. In turn, your doctor will explain them to you. Radiographers are not qualified to interpret MRI scan, so please don't ask them for their opinions.

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