Your doctor has recommended an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) examination to determine a possible illness. An MRI scan is simply an advanced, state-of-the-art diagnostic test, which produces very clear pictures or images of the human body without the use of X-rays. This technology enables physicians to detect developing diseases or abnormalities earlier than ever before. MRI uses a powerful – but harmless – magnetic field and radiowaves like the kind that transmit your favorite FM music. The combination of radiowaves and magnetic field produce detailed images of body structures such as the brain, the spine and other vital organs.
How does MRI work?
The human body is made up of millions of atoms, which are magnetic. When placed in a magnetic field, these atoms line up with the field, much like a compass points to the North Pole. Radiowaves, tuned to a specific frequency, tip these tiny magnets away from the magnetic field. As they gain energy, they tip. When the radiowaves are turned off, the atoms try to realign with the magnetic field, releasing the energy they gained as very weak radio signals. A powerful antenna picks up these signals and sends them to the computer, which performs millions of calculations to produce an image for diagnosis.
How long is an MRI scan?
The average complete MRI scan takes 20-60 minutes, depending on what your provider has ordered.
What can you expect during the MRI scan?
Although MRI is a very advanced medical technique, the MRI scan is probably one of the easiest and most comfortable exams you may ever experience. The technologist will simply ask you to lie down on a cushioned table which will automatically move into the magnet after you have been comfortably positioned for scanning. The magnet is open on both ends. The technologist will stay in contact with you throughout the exam. When the MRI scan begins, you will hear a muffled thumping sound which will last for several minutes. Just relax – even take a nap – but try to lie as still as possible since any movement during this time can distort the image. Other than sound, you should experience no other sensation during scanning. When scanning is complete, the technologist will return to assist you off of the table.
For certain studies, the injection of a contrast agent may be necessary to help better visualize the area being examined. Unlike contrast agents used in other radiology studies, MRI contrast agents do not contain iodine and therefore rarely cause allergic reactions or side effects. Before having a contrast injection, please tell your doctor, nurse, and/or MRI technologist if you:
- are allergic to any medicine, either prescription or nonprescription (OTC);
- are pregnant;
- are breast-feeding;
- have any other medical conditions, especially allergies or asthma (history of), kidney disease, diabetes or heart disease.
Patient Checklist for MRI
Prior to your exam, please review the following checklist:
- Please bring previous X-rays applicable to the exam. The radiologist may want to review them (Ex. if you are having a MRI of a knee, please bring any previous X-rays of your knee.)
- Fasting is not required before your MRI exam.
- You CAN take any medication you may currently be taking. It is not necessary to stop taking it prior to the exam. In fact, the exam will be much more comfortable if you continue to take your medication.
- You CANNOT have the exam if you have any of the following:
- Certain cerebral aneurysm clips (magnetic)
- Certain heart valves
- Cochlear implants
- Metal filings in the eye
You will be asked a series of questions concerning your surgical and occupational background. If this history includes metal work (e.g. welders, grinders, etc.) or metal implants, please be sure to tell the technologist prior to your exam. Preliminary X-rays may need to be taken.
- If you think you may be claustrophobic, ask your provider to prescribe medication prior to the exam. If you do receive medication, please bring someone with you that will be able to drive you home because you will not be able to drive yourself. Relax and do not worry about the exam! We will make sure that you receive the quality, professional are that you deserve.
After the MRI Exam
Following the exam, you may leave. There are no after-effects from MRI. The images are then processed for interpretation by the radiologist. The results are not immediately available. The radiologist will contact your physician to convey the information ascertained from the scan. Please call only your referring doctor for test results.
Our MRI machine is housed on a portable trailer available Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
MRI Hours of Operation
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
For more information regarding the MRI service at Bertrand Chaffee Hospital or to schedule an appointment, please call (716) 592-8169.
For basic MRI patient information visit www.radiologyinfo.org, a public information site developed and funded by the American College of Radiology (ACR) and the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).
Bertrand Chaffee Hospital has been awarded a three-year term of accreditation in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as the result of a recent review by the American College of Radiology (ACR) (2/2016-2/2019).