Patient Preparation

MRI > Patient Preparation

Because the strong magnetic field used for MRI may affect ferromagnetic metal objects implanted in your body, the MRI staff will ask whether you have a heart pacemaker (or artificial heart valve), implanted port (brand names Port-o-cath, Infusaport, Lifeport), intrauterine device (IUD), or any metal plates, pins, screws, or surgical staples in your body. In most cases, surgical staples, plates, pins and screws pose no risk during MRI if they have been in place for more than 4-6 weeks.

Tattoos and permanent eyeliner may also create a problem. You will be asked if you have ever had bullets or shrapnel in your body, or ever worked with metal. If there is any question of metal fragments in your body (especially in the eye), you may be asked to have an x-ray that will detect any such objects. Tooth fillings usually are not affected by the magnetic field, but they may distort images of the facial area or brain, so the radiologist should be aware of them. The same is true of braces, which may make it hard to "tune" the MRI unit to your body. You will be asked to remove anything that might degrade MRI images of the head, including hairpins, jewelry, eyeglasses, hearing aids, and any removable dental work.

If you are breastfeeding or if you think you may be pregnant, please call our office.

The radiologist or technologist may ask about drug allergies and whether you have had any surgery.

MRI Procedure Specific Preparation:

  • Brain/Orbits/Sinuses: Do not wear eye makeup.
  • Abdomen/Pelvis: Do not eat or drink 6 hours before the exam.
  • Medications may be taken with a small amount of water.

Questions and Answers

What exactly is an MRI?

MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Without using traditional X-ray imaging, MRI allows doctors to see inside the body to diagnose and identify possible medical conditions. An MRI simply samples signals from the water that makes up your body. Specialized antennae create highly defined images that can be used to make diagnoses.

You'll discover that MRI testing is painless and much quicker than you think. In fact, you'll probably be very comfortable as you lie on the padded table. The accuracy and speed of the latest MRI scanners means that you will be done quickly and your doctor will have to run fewer--if any--follow-up scans.
But keep in mind that an MRI isn't for everyone. So be sure to inform your physician if you have: a pacemaker, aneurysm clips in the brain, a shunt with telesensor, inner ear implants, metal fragments in one or both eyes, implanted spinal cord stimulators, or if you're pregnant or breast feeding.

How long will the exam take?

That will depend on what is being studied, but a typical exam lasts between 20 to 60 minutes. You should allow extra time in case the exam lasts longer than expected.

Does the machine make a lot of noise?

The magnet makes a slight rapping sound as images are being taken. In between scans the machine is quiet. The MRI technologist will provide you with hearing protection, but its use will not prevent you from hearing the technologist if he or she speaks to you during the exam.

Do I have to hold still the whole time?

It is important for image clarity and the best scan results to hold still during the exam. The technologists will inform you when you may move between scans. Keep in mind a routine exam can take at least 20 minutes.

Will I be alone?

You will be in contact with a technologist at all times. Even when he or she is not in the MRI room, you will be able to talk to him or her by intercom. In some cases a family member is welcome to stay in the room with you during your scan.

Relax: an MRI exam will help doctors learn what they really need to know about you.