MRIWhat is an MRI?

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is a safe, non-invasive, painless diagnostic imaging procedure that captures finely detailed pictures of the human anatomy, including internal organs, the nervous system, bones, and soft tissues. Unlike X-ray or CT, MRI sees musculoskeletal images in any plane of a given body part. Using a strong magnet, radio waves and a sophisticated computer, the MRI scanner assembles the faint signals emitted from the hydrogen atoms in your body to create a detailed image. MRI produces cross-sectional views of the body in slices which are then sent to the computer. The computer combines these images and can create views from any angle. MRI is used to diagnose a variety of medical conditions, and evaluate organs, tissues and bone structures for evidence of disease, abnormalities or injury. MRI provides detailed images without exposure to X-ray radiation.

OPEN MRI is different from traditional MRI in that it has a large, non-confining opening, providing an important option for large or claustrophobic patients.

Patient Experience

You should arrive at the center approximately 15 minutes before your appointment time for the usual screening procedures and paperwork. You may be asked to change into a patient gown as metal zippers and fasteners can interfere with the scan. At this time, you will also be asked to remove any metal objects or items that can be affected by the magnetic field (including hair pins, belts, jewelry, glasses, clothing with zippers, nonpermanent dentures, credit cards, car keys). Before your exam, the MRI technologist will obtain a brief medical history. Let the technologist or radiologist know if you have any questions.

The MRI examination room is occupied by a large magnet and a padded scanning table. You will be asked to lie down on the scanning table and will be positioned to ensure maximum comfort during your exam. The exam table will gently move into the opening of the magnet. A coil, which is a special radio receiver, may be placed around the body part being scanned (such as your head, knee, chest, etc.).

You will feel nothing unusual during your exam. You will hear humming and a rhythmic tapping noise as the scanner operates. It is important that you remain relaxed and still during the exam so the images do not blur. The technologist will speak to you through a two-way intercom system before each sequence, telling you when the scan will begin and how long it will last. You will be able to talk to the technologist if you need assistance at any time during the exam. If you wish, a family friend may accompany you into the MRI examination room, after being screened.

If a contrast medium must be used, it will be given to you intravenously or orally. You might experience flushing, nausea, a headache, or a salty taste in the mouth. Let your technologist know immediately if you experience any of these or any other uncomfortable sensations.
Although MRI exams are scheduled to minimize waiting time, unexpected delays may occur. Each examination is structured to the individual needs of the patient.

Exam Time

Each procedure lasts approximately 20-45 minutes. If more than one part of the body is being imaged, the exam time may be longer.


A specially trained radiologist will review and interpret the images and prepare a report of findings to be sent to your referring physician. Your physician can then explain to you what the findings mean.

Special Preparations

In most cases, there is no advanced preparation needed for your MRI scan. You may follow your normal diet and take any scheduled medications. Wear something comfortable with no metal (no zippers, etc.) Avoid make-up, as it may contain metal. Should your physician prescribe a mild sedative, someone will need to accompany you to escort you home. If you have had previous diagnostic studies (CT scan, Ultrasound, X-ray, Bone scans, or a previous MRI) of the body part being evaluated, please bring those films and reports, or request they be sent to the center. These studies or reports are very helpful to the radiologist interpreting your MRI scan.

Tell your doctor or the technologist:

  • If you are pregnant or breast feeding.
  • If you have any implanted devices such as a heart pacemaker, internal drug-infusion pump, neurostimulator, cochlear implants, aneurysm clips, metal plates, cardiac valves, or bone or joint replacements.
  • If you have had brain, heart, ear, eye or other surgeries especially prior to 1980).
  • If you have been a machine, auto, or metal worker.
  • If you have ever been injured by metal which may still be lodged in your body.
  • If you have braces or permanent bridges or hearing aids.
  • If you have inferior vena cava umbrella.