Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic test that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make images of organs and structures in the body. MRI shows problems in the body that may not be seen with x-ray CT scans, or ultrasound technology. The head, chest, blood vessels, abdomen, pelvis, bones, joints, and spine are common areas that are examined with MRI. Your body may be scanned for bleeding, tumors, blood vessel diseases, injury, and infection. You should bring any previous x-rays of the area being examined and other essential medical information with you to your exam to assure the best study and most accurate results. 

Because MRI scans use a magnetic field, you may not have the exam if you have a(n):

  • pacemaker or defbrillator
  • cochlear implants
  • most brain aneurysm clips
  • neurostimulator/bone stimulator
  • inner ear prosthesis
  • retinal tack/buckle
  • pain pumps
  • permanent hearing aids
  • some ventriculoperitoneal shunt valves
  • some penile implants
  • some vascular stents
  • Pill cam (until expelled)
  • Resolution clips
  • artificial limb
  • prosthetic device
  • metal pins in your body
  • metal heart valves

You should inform the technologist if you:

  • have medical conditions, like allergies, asthma, kidney disease, diabetes, or heart disease
  • wear a medication patch
  • are allergic to any medications
  • are or might be pregnant or breastfeeding
  • have worked around metal or have had an accident involving metal
  • have tattooed eyeliner
  • become nervous in confined spaces (claustrobphobia)
  • have an intrauterine device (IUD)
  • had surgery within six weeks of your MRI
Patient Preparation for MRI Exams
  • Please arrive 30 minutes prior to your appointment time in order to complete the registration process. Please allow two hours for the procedure. It usually takes 30-90 minutes for the actual scan
  • You will need to complete a detailed MRI screening questionnaire for your safety
  • Let your physician know if you may be claustrophobic. Conscious sedation should be given by your physician prior to arriving for your MRI. Someone must accompany you to drive you after your exam.
  • The MRI can be affected by any metal in the exam room. Please leave jewelry, keys, and other metallic items at home or in a locker (to see a more detailed list, please see the bottom of the MRI screening sheet). For exams of the brain, eye makeup should not be worn. 
  • Please wear comfortable clothing. Zippers and snaps may interfere with the MRI; therefore it is best to wear elastic waist pants/shorts, shift with no buttons or snaps, and a sports bra, if possible. You may be asked to wear an exam gown or scrubs if your clothing contains any metal. 
  • Depending on what MRI exam you are scheduled for and what the radiologist or your physician deems necessary, you may be given a contrast injection of gadolinium. Gadolinium contrasts have been used safely in millions of patients. Minor and serious or life threatening reactions rarely occur. Any questions you may have can be answered by the MRI technologists, radiologist, or your physician.
  • Children may not accompany you into the scan room. Please make arrangements ahead of time. For their safety, they will not be able to wait unattended in the lobby. 

MRI Head:

Preparation: None

Procedure: The patient will be placed into the MRI scanner with a coil similar to a football helmet over his/her head. The patient's head will be in the middle of the magnet.

Scan Time: The scan will last from 25-45 minutes depending on whether or not your physician has ordered contrast. 

MRA Head:

Preparation: None

Procedure: The patient will be placed into the MRI scanner with a coil similar to a football helmet over his/her head. The patient's head will be in the middle of the magnet. 

Scan Time: The scan will last 10-15 minutes. 

MRI Orbits: 

Preparation: Do not wear eye makeup

Procedure: The patient will be placed into the MRI scanner with a coil similar to a football helmet placed over his/her head. The patient's head will be in the middle of the magnet.

Scan Time: The scan will last approximately 45 minutes

MRI IAC (Inner Auditory Canals):

Preparation: None

Procedure: The patient will be placed into the MRI scanner with a coil similar to a football helmet over his/her head. The patient's head will be in the middle of the magnet. 

Scan Time: The scan will last approximately 45 minutes

MRI Soft Tissue Neck:

Preparation: None

Procedure: The patient will be placed into the MRI scanner with a coil similar to a football helmet over his/her head and neck. The patient's neck area will be placedi in the middle of magnet. 

Scan Time: The scan will last 45-60 minutes. This test is almost always performed with a contrast injection.

MRA Neck:

Preparation: None

Procedure: The patient will be placed into the MRI scanner with a coil similar to a football helmet over his/her head and neck. The patient's neck area will be in the middle of the magnet. 

Scan Time: The scan will last 30-45 minutes. This test is routinely performed with a contrast injection

MRI Spine (Cervical, Thoracic, Lumbar, Sacrum):

Preparation: None

Procedure: The patient will be placed into the MRI scanner laying on his/her back. The area being imaged will be placed into the middle of the magnet.

Scan Time: The scan will last 30-45 minutes, depending on whether or not your physician has ordered contrast. 

MRI Upper Extremities (Shoulder, Humerus, Elbow, Forearm, Wrist, and Hand):

Preparation: None

Procedure: The patient will be placed into the MRI scanner with a coil over the body part being imaged. The area being imaged will be placed into the middle of the magnet. For studies of the elbow, forearm, wrist, and hand, the patient will be laying on his/her stomach. 

Scan Time: The scan will last approximately 30-45

MRI Lower Extremities (Hip, Thigh, Knee, Lower Leg, Ankle, and Foot):

Preparation: None

Procedure: The patient will be placed into the MRI scanner with a coil over the body part being imaged. The area being imaged will be placed into the middle of the magnet. 

Scan Time: The scan will last approximately 30-55 minutes

MRI/MRA Abdomen: 

Preparation: Do not eat or drink 6 hours prior to the study. Patients with hypertension, diabetes, or over age 60 will need bloodwork drawn before the day of their exam.

Procedure: The patient will be placed into the MRI scanner with a coil over the abdomen. The area being imaged will be placed into the middle of the magnet. If the patient is able, he/she will be instructed to lay with arms over their head. 

Scan Time: The scan will last approximately 45-90 minutes

MRI/MRA Pelvis: 

Preparation: Do not eat or drink 6 hours prior to the study. Patients with hypertension, diabetes, or over age 60 will need bloodwork drawn before the day of their exam.

Procedure: The patient will be placed into the MRI scanner with a coil over the abdomen. The area being imaged will be placed into the middle of the magnet. If the patient is able, he/she will be instructed to lay with arms over their head.

Scan Time: The scan will last approximately 45-90 minutes

What should I expect during the procedure?

  • During your MRI, you may be required to wear a gown or scrubs depending on the area that is being scanned. 
  • The MRI technologist will assist you onto the padded exam table and position you for the procedure.
  • The table will slide into the MRI magnet.
  • During the MRI, you will need to lie as still as possible to improve the clarity of the imaging. 
  • You will hear knocking sounds from the MRI machine during the procedure. Ear plugs or music will be provided and you may also bring a CD or iPod to listen to. 
  • The MRI technologist will be in constant communication with you during your exam.

You will not feel pain during your MRI, but may feel a slight tingling in your mouth if you have fillings or warmth in the area being examined. 

Our goal is to provide you with a pleasant and comfortable MRI procedure. If you are uncomfortable in any way, please let the MRI technologist know. 

When will I be informed of my results?

After your MRI, the radiologist will mail or fax the results to your physician. The average turnaround time for Radiology reports at J.C. Blair is about 8 hours unless the radiologist needs to research more infomration about your medical history or previous studies for comparison. Your physician will schedule an appointment with you where he or she will discuss the study results.