Post By
Gateway Diagnostic Imaging

November 30, 2023

What should I expect during my MRI?

Many people feel a little nervous or anxious the first time they need an MRI scan. Rest assured, MRI scans are nothing to worry yourself over, and they’re a huge help to your healthcare provider.

Your MRI scan will be as quick and easy as possible, and will be overseen by trained healthcare professionals, who will make sure you are safe and comfortable the whole time.

Let’s take a closer look at what an MRI scan is like, including how you can prepare, and what you should expect from your MRI results.

We’ll outline the whole process for you, step by step, so you’ll know exactly what to expect from your upcoming MRI scan.

Why did my healthcare provider recommend an MRI scan?

Your provider recommended an MRI scan to get a clearer picture of what’s happening inside your body.

MRI, which stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, is a non-invasive way to capture highly detailed images of your body’s internal structures, especially the soft tissues.

Unlike some other imaging methods, MRI doesn’t use radiation. Instead, it relies on powerful magnets, radio waves, and a computer to produce these images.

This technology can be instrumental in diagnosing a variety of conditions, monitoring the progression of a known issue, or checking the effectiveness of a particular treatment.

How does an MRI work?

An MRI machine can see right into your body. It uses a big magnet and some radio signals to take pictures of the inside of your body.

When you lay down inside the MRI machine, it captures these images by sensing how the water in your body responds to the MRI’s magnetic field.

This gives your provider highly detailed images of your body, which helps them make an accurate diagnosis, so you can get the care you need.

How long does an average MRI scan last?

The length of your MRI scan can vary based on what area of the body is being examined and the specific details your provider is looking for.

On average, most MRI scans last between 20 to 60 minutes. However, certain scans might take a bit longer, especially if multiple areas are being studied.

The good news? You’ll be in constant communication with the MRI technician throughout the scan, and they’ll keep you informed about how things are progressing.

Remember, it’s essential to stay as still as possible during the scan to ensure clear images, so find a comfortable position, breathe easy, and know that you’re taking a crucial step in understanding and taking charge of your health.

Preparing for your MRI

Getting an MRI for the first time might feel overwhelming. There are lots of things you can do in advance to make sure you’re ready.

You’ll want to make sure you’re dressed comfortably, that you follow your provider’s guidelines about eating and medication, and that you have all the support you need.

Here’s everything you will need to do to be prepared for your scan.

What should I wear during my MRI?

Comfort is key when it comes to dressing for an MRI. Think cozy: like what you’d wear on a relaxed day at home. Soft, loose-fitting clothing is your best bet.

However, there’s a tiny catch: the MRI machine uses a powerful magnet, so it’s essential to avoid wearing clothes with metal parts like zippers, snaps, or underwire bras.

Most centers will likely provide you with a gown to wear during the study, but coming in comfy attire can make the pre-scan process smoother.

It’s also a good idea to leave jewelry, watches, and other metallic accessories at home to ensure nothing interferes with the imaging.

Are there any dietary or medication restrictions before the study?

The good news is that in many cases, there’s no need to change your eating habits or skip your regular meals before an MRI.

However, certain MRI studies might require fasting for a specific period beforehand, so it’s always good to check. If your healthcare provider has given you specific instructions about eating or drinking, make sure to follow them closely.

As for medications, continue taking them as prescribed unless you’re told otherwise. If in doubt, reach out to your provider a few days before your appointment to clarify any preparation steps.

Can I bring a companion with me?

Having someone familiar by your side can be comforting, especially if you’re feeling a tad nervous about the scan.

Yes, in most cases, you can bring a companion with you to the imaging center.

They might not be allowed in the actual scanning room (to ensure the best quality images), but they may be able to wait in the waiting area to support you, before and after the scan.

Checking in at your imaging center

Now that you’ve done all you can to prepare for your MRI, you might be wondering about what happens when you check in at the imaging center, on the day of your appointment.

Checking in at an imaging center is just like checking in at a doctor’s office for your first visit. You’ll want to bring the right info, arrive early, and communicate to the staff your medical history and your needs.

Let’s see exactly what you should anticipate and prepare for the day of your MRI appointment.

What documentation or ID should I bring?

Always bring a valid form of identification like a driver’s license or a passport. This helps us confirm your identity, to keep your information safe.

Alongside your ID, you’ll also want to bring any referral or prescription forms related to your MRI from your healthcare provider.

If you have insurance, don’t forget your insurance card or related documents. This ensures the billing process goes as smoothly as your scan.

How early should I arrive for my appointment?

Aim to arrive at least 15 to 20 minutes before your scheduled appointment time. This buffer allows you to settle in, complete any required paperwork, and ask any last-minute questions.

It’s always better to have those few extra minutes up your sleeve rather than feeling rushed. Plus, if it’s your first time visiting this particular imaging center, the extra time will be handy in case you need to find the center, and to navigate parking.

Safety and comfort during your MRI

Some people who have never had an MRI worry about their safety and comfort while inside an MRI machine. We understand that.

Remember your imaging center is staffed by a healthcare team that’s ready to ensure that you have a worry-free scan.

How can I know an MRI is safe for me?

The MRI is a well-established scan that’s been around for decades. It’s non-invasive, and unlike other scans, it doesn’t use radiation.

MRIs use very strong magnets, and that’s why it’s essential to ensure you don’t have any metallic implants or objects that might be affected. Before the scan, you’ll be asked about things like pacemakers, metal implants, or even certain tattoos.

Always provide accurate information to the MRI technician, as they’re trained to identify any potential risks. If ever in doubt, consult with your healthcare provider to get clarity on any specific concerns.

What support will I have if I feel anxious or claustrophobic?

It’s not uncommon to feel a tad bit anxious, especially if it’s your first MRI. Remember you’re never truly alone during the scan.

The MRI technician will be in a nearby control room, monitoring the whole process and communicating with you via an intercom system. They can always hear you, and you’ll be able to hear them, too.

If the idea of a confined space makes you feel a little claustrophobic or nervous, it might be comforting to know many modern MRI machines are designed to be more spacious and open. You can also inquire about the possibility of having music or relaxation sounds played during the scan.

It’s all about making you as comfortable as possible. If anxiety is a significant concern, discuss it with your healthcare provider beforehand; they can offer guidance or even recommend relaxation techniques to help.

What happens if I panic during my scan?

While the hope is for you to have a calm and worry-free experience, it’s OK to acknowledge sometimes, emotions can get the best of us.

If you start to feel panicky during the MRI, there’s a call button you can press to alert the technician. They will immediately check in with you to assess the situation.

If needed, they can pause or stop the scan to ensure your well-being. Remember, your comfort and safety are the top priorities, and the center’s staff is there to support you every step of the way.

Your MRI experience

Even if you feel well-prepared for your MRI, you might still feel uneasy about the scan itself, especially if this is your first MRI scan.

An MRI scan may be a new experience for you but remember lots of people have had MRI scans before you, and many providers have depended on MRIs to help their patients.

Let’s take a close look at exactly what you can experience during your scan.

What does the MRI machine look like?

An MRI machine, at first glance, might remind you of a giant doughnut: it’s a large circular piece of equipment with a tunnel right in the center.

Most of these machines are wide and cylindrical, with a comfortable table in the middle that slides into and out of this tunnel.

It’s all very high-tech, but it’s designed with patient comfort in mind. The exterior usually has a sleek, modern design, while the inside of the tunnel is well-lit and made to feel as open as possible.

Will I be fully inside the MRI machine?

Whether you’ll be fully inside the machine depends largely on the area of your body being scanned. For some scans, only part of your body will be inside, but for other scans your whole body goes inside the MRI.

For instance, if you’re getting an MRI of your leg, only your leg and perhaps part of your lower body will be inside the tunnel, leaving your head and upper body outside.

On the other hand, if the scan focuses on your head or neck, you might be positioned so that most of your body is inside the tunnel.

But remember, many modern MRI machines are designed to be spacious, and there’s always communication with the technician, ensuring you’re feeling okay during the process.

Is it noisy inside the MRI machine?

Yes, it can get a bit noisy. The sounds of an MRI machine can be described as a series of loud knocking or tapping noises. But don’t be caught off-guard; this is just the machine taking pictures.

To make it more comfortable for you, most imaging centers will offer earplugs or headphones to dampen the noise. Some places might even let you listen to music or a podcast during the scan, turning a potentially unfamiliar environment into a more relaxed experience.

How should I position myself and remain still during the scan? What if I can’t stay still?

The MRI technician will guide you into the right position for your scan. Depending on the area being examined, you might be asked to lie on your back, stomach, or even on your side.

The key thing to remember is to remain as still as possible during the scan. Movement can blur the images, much like how a photo can turn out blurry if the camera or subject moves.

If you feel an itch or slight discomfort, try to wait for a break between scans (there usually are short pauses) to adjust or let the technician know.

If you’re concerned about not being able to stay still, whether due to pain or any other reason, discuss this with the imaging center beforehand. They might have solutions, like padding or supports, to make you more comfortable.

After your MRI

In the days following your MRI, a radiologist will study your MRI images and send the images and report to your healthcare provider.

From there, your doctor will notify you about your results, and make any necessary plans for follow-up care.

We’ll show you exactly how the whole process works.

How soon can I expect my MRI results?

The turnaround time for MRI results can vary based on the imaging center and the complexity of the scan. Typically, though, you can expect your results within a few days to a week.

The images taken during the MRI need to be analyzed and interpreted by a radiologist, a doctor specializing in medical imaging. Once they’ve taken a detailed look and made their observations, the center will send the results to your healthcare provider.

What if my MRI images show something concerning?

First and foremost, if abnormalities are detected, it’s essential not to worry before you speak with your healthcare provider about your results.

Sometimes, abnormal results can show benign growths, age-related changes, or other non-threatening conditions.

Your healthcare provider will discuss the specifics with you, ensuring you understand the nature of the findings and what they could mean for your overall health.

How will I know if I need additional tests or follow-up scans?

After discussing your MRI results, your healthcare provider will guide you on the next steps, if any are needed.

Depending on the findings, they might recommend additional tests or scans for a clearer picture or to rule out certain conditions. They’ll explain the reasons for any further tests, ensuring you’re informed and comfortable with the process.

Remember, the goal is to provide you with the most accurate and comprehensive understanding of your health, so any recommended follow-up is with your best interest in mind.

How to schedule your MRI scan with us

When you get your MRI scan, we’ll make sure you have access to affordable, high-quality medical imaging from specialized radiologists and certified technicians.

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

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