Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed, usually 2-D images of the inside of your body. MRI scans can show muscles, joints, bone marrow, blood vessels, nerves and other structures within your body and are commonly used to examine the brain, spine, abdomen and pelvis.
MRI scanning is one of the safest imaging techniques available and can be used to produce images of almost any part of the body and can produce images from all angles. The detail in these images is so good that a lesion as small as 2mm can be seen.
As the tunnel is wider and can be entered feet first, claustrophobic patients, including children, may feel more comfortable in an open MRI scanner. This type of scanner is also less noisy.
You can drink and eat as normal before most MRI scans. An MRI scan should take between 30 to 60 minutes and is carried out by a radiographer. A scan of the chest, abdomen and/or pelvis may take up to one and a half hours. The procedure is painless, but can be very noisy. Depending on the part of the body being scanned, your head may need to be inside the MRI scanner and you may feel claustrophobic.
For some scans you will be given an injection or a drink of a contrast agent (a radio-opaque dye) before your scan. This allows the radiologist to see the parts of your body more clearly. A scan of the chest, abdomen and/or pelvis will take longer as you will need to drink or be injected with more contrast before the scan.
You will lie on a comfortable couch, which is moved into and through the MRI scanner, which is like a short tunnel, open at both ends. You will be asked to lie very still and will be able to speak to and hear the MRI staff at all times.
It’s important to tell your radiographer before your scan if you have a:
- Cardiac pacemaker
- Artificial limb or joint
- Artificial heart valve
- Metal clips on blood vessels in your brain
- Screws, plates or staples from previous surgery
- Cochlear (inner ear) implants
- Contraceptive coil fitted
If you are, or there is a possibility you may be, pregnant please tell the radiographer before your scan.
For more information, and if you have any queries about the procedure, speak to your consultant.
Continue taking your normal medication unless you are told otherwise.
If you are diabetic please tell the radiology department.
It’s helpful if you bring any previous scans with you.
Possible side effects
The injection may make you feel hot and may give you a funny taste at the back of your throat. This is normal and should pass quickly.
Results will usually be sent to the doctor who referred you within two days of your open MRI scan.
Paying for your procedure
Open MRI scan costs are covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first. If you are paying for your own treatment the cost of the procedure will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the operation. Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the surgeon’s fee, the consultant radiologist’s fee and the hospital charge for your procedure.