Frequently Asked Questions

WHAT IS AN MRI EXAMINATION?

MRI, which stands for magnetic resonance imaging, is a painless and safe diagnostic procedure that uses a powerful magnet and radio waves to produce detailed images of the body’s organs and structures without the use of radiation. 

DO I NEED A REFERRAL (PRESCRIPTION) TO RECEIVE AN MRI EXAMINATION? 
Yes, your doctor must give you a referral (prescription) in order for you to receive an MRI examination. 

HOW LONG WILL THE MRI EXAMINATION TAKE? 
Depending on the type of exam you will receive, the length of the actual procedure will be between 30 minutes and 1 hour. Very few MRI examinations take longer than 1 hour. 

WHEN SHOULD I EXPECT MY RESULTS? 
Your referring physician should receive your results within 24 hours and should contact you soon thereafter. Your results may be slightly delayed depending on whether prior imaging (CT, ultrasound, MRI, etc.) done elsewhere is available to be compared 

CAN I BRING A FRIEND OR A RELATIVE INTO THE MR SCAN ROOM WITH ME? 
If your friend/relative is checked and cleared to enter the MRI scan room, he or she may safely accompany you for the exam. Typically your friend/relative will be seated in a chair next to the MRI scanner, or they may stand next to the patient table during your exam. 
All people entering the MR scan room should be checked for metal in or on their body. This check may include the removal of keys, coins, jewelry, watches, hairpins, hair clips, hearing aids, cell phones, wallets, and credit cards or id cards with magnetic strips (since the strips magnetic coding can be erased by the magnetic field). 

DO I NEED AN INJECTION OF CONTRAST FOR MY MRI EXAM? 
Not everyone needs an injection for MR imaging. When an injection is needed, a pharmaceutical contrast agent called gadolinium is administered. This is only done when the radiologist and/or the referring physician have determined that it is necessary for diagnostic purposes. Gadolinium contrast is used to make specific organs; blood vessels or tissue types ‘stand out’ with more image contrast in the resulting picture. This highlights the structure of the specific organs or vessel to better show the presence of disease or injury. The decision to use or not to use an injection of contrast (gadolinium) is made based on the patient’s medical condition and the body part being examined. 

HOW IS THE CONTRAST INJECTION ADMINISTERED FOR AN MRI EXAM? 
If an MRI does require the use of a contrast (gadolinium) injection, a small needle connected to an intravenous line is usually inserted into the patient’s arm or hand. The contrast agent (gadolinium) will be administered through the intravenous line. At the time of the injection, a patient may feel a cool sensation going up his or her arm. As with anything taken into the body, there is a very slight chance of an allergic reaction. 

CAN I HAVE AN MR IMAGING EXAM IF I AM PREGNANT? 
MRI is considered a safe exam, however, conclusive information showing how safe MRI is for pregnant women and the fetus is not yet available. MRI is generally not performed on pregnant women until the end of the second trimester (5 months). Please consult with your physician for more specific information. 

IF I’M NURSING AN INFANT, CAN I BREAST FEED AFTER A CONTRAST INJECTION? 
Typically, patients are instructed to wait for 24 hours after receiving the gadolinium injection before breast feeding again. Patients may wish to pump breast milk prior to the MR exam and store it for use during this 24-hour period. 

WHAT WOULD DISQUALIFY ME FROM HAVING AN MRI EXAMINATION? 
Patients who would be unable to have an MRI examination are those with heart pacemakers, defibrillator, brain aneurysm clips, metal fragments in the body and any implanted mechanical devices or electrical conductors.

SHOULD I STOP TAKING MY MEDICATION PRIOR TO AN MRI EXAMINATION? 
Typically, patients do not need to change their daily routine because there is no special prep prior to an MRI examination. Continue to take any medication as directed by your physician. If you are taking any sedative that may make you drowsy, please arrange for someone to take you to and from your appointment. 

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