By Melissa Gaidosh
Your healthcare provider is recommending you have an MRI. What is an MRI? How do you prepare for one? What should you expect? The brief information that follows will help you prepare for this common medical exam.
MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. MRI’s use a strong magnetic field and radio waves to create slice by slice images of internal organs and other body structures. MRI’s are the most common imaging test performed on the brain and spine.
Unless your healthcare provider tells you otherwise, you can eat, drink and take medications as you normally would prior to your exam.
You will be asked about implantable devices, such as pacemakers, prior to your exam. Almost all medical implants are made with materials that are safe to undergo an MRI. If you have questions you should ask your healthcare provider or the technologist performing the procedure beforehand.
You will be asked to change into a gown. You will also be required to remove all jewelry, watches, hairpins, etc. This is to ensure nothing magnetic is introduced into the imaging room.
Some exams may require the placement of an IV to receive IV contrast. This is to ensure better visualization of certain structures. You will be informed if this is necessary when your exam is scheduled.
During your exam you will lie on a movable table that goes inside a short tunnel. You will need to be very still during the exam. The technician will be able to talk with you during the exam through a speaker to give you instructions. Sometimes if an exam will last for a while, music may be played to help diminish the noise created by the MRI equipment. The noises are a series of loud tapping or drumming sounds that may change throughout the exam. You may also be offered earplugs. You will hear noises, but you should not feel any pain or discomfort. MRI exams generally last from fifteen minutes to one hour, depending upon what part of the body is being imaged.
If you have a fear of enclosed spaces, an open MRI may be an option if available in your area. Another alternative is to request a prescription for a mild sedative from your healthcare provider prior to your exam.
After your exam, you can resume your usual activities unless instructed otherwise. If you require a sedative prior to your exam be sure you have arrangements for a ride and exercise caution until the sedative has worn off.
- Ask the Tech how long your session will be so you don’t get anxious
- Ask for a mirror that allows you to see out
- Play a song you like before the MRI then sing it to yourself in your head during the MRI
- Meditate or practice yoga before your MRI
- Wear an essential oil fragrance that calms you (check with your doctor)