What is an MRI?
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a method of viewing the inside of the body without surgery or radiation. MRI uses a powerful magnet, radio waves, and computer technology to produce highly detailed pictures of organs, soft tissues, bone and all other internal structures of the body. MRI exams are painless and have no known side effects. Millions of people from young children to the elderly have had MRI examinations. MRI is an important diagnostic tool helping the medical community make better decisions about your health care.
Why has my doctor ordered an MRI exam?
When your doctor requires top-quality images, especially of soft tissues, he or she will most likely request an MRI. MRI images give your doctor a way to “see” inside organs, muscle, cartilage, ligaments and tendons. MRI exams are commonly used to look at the brain, spinal column, breast, abdomen, pelvic area and joints. MRI images can distinguish between healthy and unhealthy tissue, and give your doctor a powerful tool for diagnosing and treating medical conditions.
How do I prepare for an MRI exam?
Preparing for an MRI scan is simple. You can take all your normal medications unless your physician gives you special instructions. Please wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing without zippers, snaps or anything else metallic, as metal interferes with the imaging. If your clothing contains metal, we will provide scrubs for you to wear during the exam. You cannot wear watches, jewelry, or anything else containing metal into the scanner room. You can remove these items and leave them in the secure changing suite prior to the exam. All body piercings must be removed prior to the MRI exam. Also, no keys, coins, dentures with metal components, hearing aids, medical alert devices, or cell phones are allowed in the scanner room. Credit cards cannot be brought into the scanner room since the magnetic codes can be affected by the magnet. You should also remove eye makeup, as some cosmetics contain metallic substances.
How do I help my child prepare for an MRI exam?
Please follow all same instructions listed above. Children under the age of 6 often need a sedative because they cannot remain still long enough for a successful scan. You can help your child have a positive experience by explaining the procedure to them in child-friendly language. Explain that the doctor needs to take some pictures, and that the child needs to stay very still. Some parents find it helpful to engage their children in creative play, such as imagining that the scanner is a spaceship or a secret chamber where the child has to be very, very still. If you engage your child in a story before the appointment, he or she can replay the story in his or her imagination during the scan. We encourage you to stay in the exam room with your child during the scan.
My medical history: what do you need to know before you perform an MRI exam?
The MRI exam is safe and non-invasive. However, if any of the following conditions apply to you, you MUST tell our staff, as we may need to make special preparations:
- Surgery to area
- Cardiac pacemaker or artificial heart valves
- Prosthesis implant or limb
- Bone or joint replacements
- Liver transplant or plans to have one
- Kidney problems
- Beta blocker
- Surgical or aneurysm clips
Silicon or plastic implants
- Removable or permanent dentures
- Implanted cardioverter defibrillator
- Implanted insulin pumps
- Implanted spinal cord stimulator
- Cochlear implants/metallic ear implant
- Metal plates, rods, pins or screws
- Pregnant or think you may be
- Electronic or magnetic implant or device
- Allergies to medication
- Permanent eyeliner
Also, it is important to know if you have been exposed to metallic fragments:
- through a war wound
- as a metal worker
- through construction work or house painting/cleaning, etc.
Is an MRI exam safe?
The MRI exam is safe and painless. The scanner does not touch you and you will not feel anything. There are, however, precautions we must take for those who have pacemakers, metallic structures or devices in the body, have diabetes or kidney problems, are breastfeeding, or are pregnant or might be pregnant. See Precautions/Medical History for more details.
Can I eat or drink before an MRI exam?
Usually there are no dietary restrictions before a MRI exam. However, if your physician has requested the use of a contrast agent for your MRI then it would be best not to eat two hours prior to your exam to minimize the already unlikely event of nausea. Also, if you are to have an abdominal (liver, pancreas, kidney, etc.) or pelvis study, do not eat or drink at least 4 hours prior to your scheduled scan time. An empty GI tract helps produce better images. If you are diabetic and concerned about your blood sugars, please talk to us about your concerns. We are here to help.
Why is it so important to lie still during an MRI exam?
To achieve the clearest possible image, it is important to be as relaxed and still as possible. Movement may make it necessary to perform a sequence a second time. If you find that you are uncomfortable in any way, the technician will help you find a more comfortable position.
What if I am claustrophobic?
If you have claustrophobic tendencies, please discuss this with your doctor. If necessary, your doctor can prescribe an oral medication that will help you feel calm and relaxed. Please take your medication 1/2 hour before your scheduled appointment, so that your medication will have time to take effect. Do not eat or drink 4 hours prior to arriving for your appointment, as the medication will take effect more quickly on an empty stomach. If your doctor prescribes medication to help you relax, we require that you bring a driver to take you home after the exam. You may bring someone to be in the room if that helps you feel more relaxed. Like you, he or she cannot wear clothing or jewelry containing metal or bring any metallic objects or credit cards into the exam room. During your exam, our MRI technician will be in constant communication with you, and will help you feel relaxed and comfortable.
What will happen during the MRI exam?
Our technician will ask you to lie down on a cushioned table and find a comfortable position. The table slides into the magnet area to prepare for the scan. The technician will move to an adjoining room, but can see you and talk with you at all times. You will hear a knocking sound that ranges from very quiet to fairly loud as the scans are being made. If you wish, you can have a companion stay in the scanning room with you throughout the scan. In fact, whenever possible, parents are encouraged to be in the room with their children during the scan. Immediately after the exam, you may return to work or home and resume normal activities.
What is “contrast” and when is it required?
Some types of scans require the use of a contrast medium to provide a clear image. Also, your physician may request the use of a contrast medium. The MRI contrast agent is administered intravenously. If you are a diabetic or have limited kidney function, please alert us, as this may affect the use of MRI contrast.
How long will the MRI take?
The scan takes about 30 to 75 minutes depending on the type of information your doctor needs.
Are there size or weight restrictions?
Patients whose weight exceeds 350 lbs (159 kg) may not be able to be accommodated by the MRI scanner at our facility.
Can I leave right after my MRI exam?
Yes, in most cases. Because there are no side effects, you can leave immediately following the procedure. If sedation is required, there is a recovery period and you will need to have someone drive you home.
How do I schedule an exam?
To schedule an exam, please call us at (916) 779‑1018. If the exam was requested by your physician, you will need to have your referral request and your insurance information available when you call.
What if I need to cancel or reschedule my appointment?
As we only serve one client at a time, an appointment means that we reserved that specific time for you. If you need to cancel or reschedule your appointment, please call us at least 48 hours in advance.
What if I am late for my appointment?
If you are late, chances are that we will have to re-schedule your appointment. Please plan to arrive 10 minutes before your scheduled appointment. Be sure to allow extra time during rush hour (7 to 9 am and 4 to 7 pm).
Will insurance cover my exam?
Most MRI exams are covered by most insurance plans. Click here to see what insurance plans we accept. Some insurances require pre-authorization for MRI scans. If you are not sure whether your insurance plan will cover your MRI exam, please contact us at (916) 779‑1018. Please bring your insurance card and referral/authorization form (if necessary), and co-payment or deductible on the day of your appointment. Payment is expected at the time of your visit. We accept cash, check, Visa and MasterCard. We offer competitive pricing for cash patients–ask for details.
When will I know the results?
Our board-certified radiologists include specialists in areas such as musculoskeletal, abdominal, and pediatric radiology and neuroradiology. The radiologist will interpret your MRI and send the report to your doctor within 24 to 48 hours (excluding weekends) of your exam. Your doctor will contact you to discuss the results.