Post By
Gateway Diagnostic Imaging

May 20, 2024

What should I expect during a shoulder MRI?

Shoulder pain can be very difficult to live with, and for some people, it can even limit or change what they’re able to do each day. The sooner you can get treatment, and get back to living your life, the better you’ll feel. 

Your first step to living without pain is to see your healthcare provider to get an order for a shoulder MRI.

A shoulder MRI is a common diagnostic imaging scan that takes highly detailed pictures of the inside of your shoulder, so your healthcare provider can see exactly what’s wrong, and then craft your treatment plan.

We’ll tell you how to get ready for your shoulder MRI, how your body will be positioned in the MRI machine, and what happens during and after your scan.

What clothing should I wear to my shoulder MRI appointment?

For a shoulder MRI, wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothes. A t-shirt and sweatpants is a great choice.

Since the MRI machine uses a powerful magnet, you should avoid any clothing with metal components like zippers, snaps, rivets, or belts. 

It’s also helpful to remove jewelry, watches, and hairpins before your appointment to avoid any issues during the scan.

Many facilities offer a gown to wear during the scan , ensuring there is no interference with the magnetic field. 

Are there any dietary restrictions or preparations required before an MRI?

For most people, no special dietary preparations are needed before a shoulder MRI. 

You can eat and drink normally unless specifically instructed otherwise by your healthcare provider. 

Drinking water and staying hydrated is a great idea, as is a light meal, a few hours beforehand.

Can someone with a shoulder injury or a shoulder implant get an MRI?

Having a shoulder injury or a shoulder implant does not necessarily exclude you from getting an MRI. 

In the case of injuries, MRIs are often used precisely to diagnose or evaluate the extent of the injury. 

For those with shoulder implants, it largely depends on the type of implant and the material it is made of: non-magnetic materials like titanium are generally MRI-safe, while other materials may pose risks, or cause distorted images. 

Always inform your MRI technologist about any implants, and they will confirm if the MRI can be safely performed, or if an alternative imaging method is necessary.

Positioning your body for a shoulder MRI

If you’ve injured your shoulder, you’re probably concerned about whether getting a shoulder MRI will cause you more pain.

Rest assured your technologist will do everything they can to ensure you are comfortable for the duration of your visit.

Let’s take a closer look at how your body will be positioned for a shoulder MRI.

For a shoulder MRI, do I have to go all the way into the MRI machine?

In all likelihood, only part of your body will go into the MRI machine. 

While you might be concerned about having to fully enter the tube-shaped MRI machine, for a shoulder MRI, often only the upper part of your body needs to be inside the part of the MRI where the scanning takes place. 

During the scan you will lie down on a movable table, and this table will slide your shoulder and upper body into the tube, while the rest of your body remains outside. 

What position will I be in for a shoulder MRI?

When you are positioned for a shoulder MRI, you will typically be asked to lie flat on your back on the MRI table. Your shoulder will need to be placed in the center of the MRI coil, which is crucial for capturing detailed images. 

The coil is a special device that improves signal reception. Depending on the part of the shoulder being examined, your arm may need to be positioned in various ways. It may be stretched above your head, or placed alongside your body, possibly with your elbow bent. 

The MRI technologist will make sure you are as comfortable as possible, and may use cushions or pads to help maintain your position throughout the scan.

Why will I have to hold my shoulder still during the MRI scan?

Staying still during your MRI scan is very important. Any movement can blur the images, making it difficult for your doctor to get a clear and accurate view of your shoulder structure. 

The technologist will communicate with you to ensure you know when it’s particularly important to hold still, especially during longer sequences of the scan. 

Holding your shoulder still not only ensures the best quality images, but also helps speed up the overall process, making your experience as quick and as efficient as possible.Image of MRI scans of the shoulder.

During your shoulder MRI scan

When you’re getting ready for your shoulder MRI, it might ease your mind to know a little about what will happen during your scan.

That way, on the day of your scan, you’ll be a little more relaxed and ready to get great results.

We’ll let you know what you can expect during your first shoulder MRI.

How can I communicate with my technologist during my MRI?

Before the scan begins, your technologist will explain how you can communicate with them once the MRI scan is underway. 

Usually, you’ll have access to a buzzer or a similar device you can use if you need assistance or feel uncomfortable at any point during the MRI. 

The room will also be equipped with an intercom system, allowing you to hear the technologist, and speak to them as needed. They’ll be monitoring you throughout the scan, so you can feel secure knowing help is just a call away.

How long does a shoulder MRI usually take?

Typically, you can expect the scan to last between 30 to 60 minutes, depending on your circumstances and the images your provider has requested. Your technologist will let you know the estimated time before the scan starts.

Are MRI machines really as loud as people say they are?

During your scan, you’ll likely hear a series of loud thumping or tapping noises. These sounds are totally normal, and happen whenever the MRI machine’s magnets are turned on, and it begins to work. 

MRI machines can be a little bit loud for some people, so certain imaging centers will provide you with headphones or earplugs to help reduce the noise. Please feel free to let your technologist know if you’d like something to quiet the noise.

Following your shoulder MRI

Once your shoulder MRI is finished, there are few things to keep in mind, both immediately after your scan and as you wait for your MRI results.

Let’s see what you can expect right after your scan, how long it takes to get your MRI results, and who interprets those results.

Are there any restrictions on my activities after the scan?

You should be able to resume your usual activities immediately after leaving the imaging center, including physical activity and work. 

After the scan, you can drive yourself home, unless you were given a sedative to help you relax during the scan. In that case you’ll need someone to drive you home. 

If your job involves heavy lifting or vigorous activity, it might be a good idea to ease back into those tasks, according to your provider’s instructions.

How long will it take to get my MRI results?

The wait time for MRI results can vary, but generally, you can expect to hear back from your healthcare provider within a few days to a week. 

After your scan, your results are sent to your healthcare provider, who will review the results and discuss them with you during a follow-up appointment. 

If your case is urgent or you have upcoming medical decisions that depend on these results, the process might be expedited.

How will my shoulder MRI results be interpreted?

Interpreting the results of a shoulder MRI involves a detailed examination of the images by a radiologist and your healthcare provider. 

The radiologist will look for any abnormalities in the shoulder joint, including issues with bones, tendons, muscles, and other soft tissues. Their report will summarize these findings, and may include recommendations for further evaluation or treatment. 

Your healthcare provider will use this information to determine the best course of action for your health, discussing potential treatments or additional diagnostics, if necessary. 

How to schedule your MRI scan with us

When you get your scan at one of our imaging centers, we’ll make sure you have access to affordable, high-quality medical imaging from specialized radiologists and certified technologists. 

Reach out to a Gateway imaging center near you, and schedule your MRI appointment today.

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