Magnetic Resonance Imaging is used as a key part of all sorts of diagnostic processes. MRI scanners use strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce extremely high-quality images of areas of the body that would not otherwise be accessible without invasive surgery. If your doctor has referred you for an MRI scan, it can seem like a rather scary prospect. Once you know what to expect, however, things start to feel a little bit less stressful.
Before The Scan
When you arrive at the MRI imaging center, you will be asked to remove any metallic objects on your body. This usually involves removing any piercings that you have. The reason for this should be obvious to anybody that knows how MRI scanning works. The scanning machine uses strong magnetic fields. Any object with a magnetic field will be attracted to the cylindrical scanner. For the same reason, you’ll be asked if you have a pacemaker or bone implant. If you work with metal or have any history of being exposed to metal fragments, you will receive a full ocular exam to ensure that you do not have any metallic foreign objects in your eyes.
Many MRI scanning procedures require the patient to inject some form of contrast dye before the scan begins. Contrast dye can be either ingested through the digestive system or injected straight into the veins. This special dye makes blood and tissue stand out more to the doctors and radiologists who inspect the scans. Contrast dye is usually made of gadolinium. Gadolinium is toxic, so the dye also contains an agent that prevents the toxicity from being in any way harmful. It is typically passed through the kidney after a scan perfectly safely.
Before the scan begins, you will be asked a few final questions. These usually relate to your own concerns about the procedure. If you feel like you are too claustrophobic to stay still during the scan, you may be offered a form of sedative. If you plan on taking a sedative, you will not be able to drive for around 24 hours.
The actual scan can be relatively stressful, but it is in no way dangerous if you have been prepared by doctors and radiologists correctly. You will need to lie down on a motorized bed. This is then moved into the scanner itself, which is cylindrical and contains powerful electromagnets. A doctor and a radiologist will be in a separate room monitoring the scan. In some cases, a frame may be placed over the area that needs to be scanned. This is a technique used to create a more clear image. It is extremely important that you keep completely still during the scan, as blurred images may be captured if you move.
After The Scan
Doctors and radiologists will need to examine your scans, so you won’t be able to see results for a little while. If you have taken a sedative, you will be unable to drive for 24 hours after your appointment.