The medical field is full of different acronyms and types of procedures, and it can seem daunting and impenetrable to those of us without any training. So if you’ve been told that you should get an MRI, you might well be wondering what exactly that is and what it involves. This article will give you an overview of the process to set your mind at ease and let you know what to expect.
What is an MRI?
MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, and it’s a type of scan or medical imaging technique. It uses strong magnetic fields, radio waves, and a computer to produce detailed pictures of the inside of your body. This includes internal organs such as the brain or heart, as well as bones and joints. It’s a non-invasive and painless process, which poses no risk to the human body.
What does the procedure involve?
When you have an MRI scan at a facility such as Express MRI, you lie down on a flatbed that slides inside a big tube that’s open at both ends. Depending on which part of your body is being scanned, you might not need to go completely inside the machine. Once inside, you’ll be able to communicate with the radiographer operating the MRI via an intercom.
The MRI machine will make loud noises at certain points during the scan. This is completely normal, and you will be given headphones or earplugs to block it out. The most important point is to stay as still as possible while the scan is taking place to ensure the images are clear. The process can take anywhere from 15-90 minutes, depending on the type of scan you’re having.
Generally speaking, you will be able to go home immediately after your MRI and resume your normal activities straight away. The only exception is if you were given a sedative in order to help with feelings of claustrophobia, in which case a friend or family member will need to take you home.
How do I prepare for an MRI?
Normally there is nothing in particular that you need to do to prepare for an MRI, and you will be able to eat and drink as normal before the procedure. The main factor to be aware of is that you cannot have any metal on you during the scan due to the magnetic fields produced. That means you will need to remove all jewelry, piercings, dentures, wigs, and similar items. Some tattoo ink also contains metal, so tell your doctor if you have one. You should also make sure you don’t have your cellphone in your pocket or any coins or other metallic objects.
It’s advisable to wear loose, comfortable clothing for your scan, with no zippers or other metal fasteners. Alternatively, you can change into a medical gown for the procedure. Finally, in some cases, an MRI scan might not be suitable for you – if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or have a pacemaker or other metallic implants in your body, be sure to alert your doctor in advance.