MRI Frequently asked questions

Do you have questions about the services that we offer? Doctor with patientsBelow is a list of some frequently asked questions, along with our answers.


Q: What is MRI and how does it work

A: MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. An MRI scanner allows physicians to look inside the body without using surgery, harmful dyes, or X-rays. The MRI scanner uses magnets, radio waves and computers to produce very clear pictures, or images, of the human anatomy. MRI images, depict soft tissue anatomy far better than any other diagnostic imaging equipment. The fundamental discovery upon which MRI is based was made by Raymond V. Damadian, M.D. in 1971. Dr. Damadian built the world´s first whole-body MRI scanner in 1977, and his company, FONAR Corporation, introduced the world´s first commercial MRI scanner in 1980.

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Q: Can anybody have an MRI scan?

A: No. For some people, an MRI can be dangerous, even fatal. If you have a cardiac pacemaker, you should not have an MRI. It can be fatal. There may be certain parts in the pacemaker that may be adversely affected by the magnetic field of the MRI scanner, causing the apparatus to malfunction or cease operating.

Other Potential Dangers:

Aneurysm clips in the brain. Some aneurysm clips are MRI safe; some aren't. You must check with the surgeon who installed the clip to be sure the manufacturer has tested it and found it to be MRI safe.

Other Potential Dangers:

bullet point Neurostimulators
bullet point Heart Valves
bullet point Metal Implants
bullet point Drug Infusion Devise/Pump
bullet point Ear Implants
bullet point Hearing Aid (The MRI can damage it.)
bullet point Inferior Vena Cava filter
bullet point Metal Objects in Eyes
bullet point Surgical Staples or Wires
bullet point Bone or Joint Replacements
bullet point Metal Plates, Rods, Pins or Screws
bullet point Contraceptive Diaphragms or Coils
bullet point Permanent Dentures
bullet point Penile Implants
bullet point Shrapnel
bullet point Pregnancy
bullet point Vascular Coils and Filters

If any of the above applies to you, it MAY BE DANGEROUS for you to have an MRI exam. Be sure to make the technologist and staff at the MRI center aware, and also tell the doctor who prescribed the exam. They will be able to tell you if it is safe for you to have the MRI exam. In most cases you will be able to have the scan, but please leave that decision to the professionals.

Note: Anyone accompanying the patient to any area near the MRI scanner is subject to the same dangers.

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Q: Is there any danger in having an MRI scan?

A: YES! For some people it can be very dangerous, even fatal. Click here to see if it is safe for you to have an MRI.

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Q: What do I have to do to prepare myself for an MRI?

A: The first step is to be certain that it is safe for you to have an MRI scan. If you are not certain, click here.

Preparing for an MRI exam is easy. Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, you may take your medications as usual. There are no food or drink restrictions.

The only unusual preparation for an MRI scan is that all removable metallic objects must be left outside the scanning room. These include jewelry, keys, watches, coins, eyeglasses, removable hearing aids, dentures and prosthetic devices.

Credit cards should not be brought anywhere near the MRI magnet. Since they are magnetically coded, the MRI´s magnet, which is very powerful, can easily corrupt the information stored on them.

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Q: Should I avoid eating certain things before the MRI?

A: There are no food or drink restrictions.


Q: Does it hurt? Will I feel anything?

A: You won´t feel a thing. Unlike many other MRI scanners, ours are quiet, comfortable and non-claustrophobic.


Q: I´ve heard that some MRI scanners induce claustrophobic reactions. Do yours?

A: Our scanners are all Open MRI´s. There are no tunnels, no tubes. Ours are quiet, comfortable and non-claustrophobic.

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Q: Will my insurance cover the cost of the MRI?

A: Most likely. We accept Workers´ Compensation cases, Medicare, auto accident cases and many commercial insurance plans and HMO´s. When you call to make your appointment, ask if your insurance company will pay some or all of the cost.


Q: Do I need a doctor´s prescription for an MRI?

A: Yes. Be sure to bring it with you when you come for your MRI exam.

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Q: What should I bring with me when I come for my MRI?

  • The prescription from your doctor
  • Your insurance card
  • Your driver´s license

Q: What will the MRI staff want to know about me?

A: The receptionist and MRI technologist will ask you questions about your medical history. They will check to see if it is safe for you to have an MRI scan. If you are not sure if it is safe for you, click here.

The receptionist will also ask you for certain insurance information, so bring your insurance card with you.

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Q: How should I dress? Will I have to wear any special clothing?

A: When it comes to how to dress for an MRI exam, the main thing to realize is that metal can degrade or ruin MRI pictures. Therefore, you should wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing (no dresses or skirts for modesty reasons), but keep in mind that metal must be avoided in or near the region where you are going to be scanned. Here are some examples:

If you are going to have a scan of the lower spine (lumbar spine) or the abdomen area, don't wear clothing or under-clothing that has metal on it in that area. For example, a body suit that has snaps in the crotch, or pants with fasteners or a zipper will cause a problem. Sweats with no eyelets would be fine. Also, body-pierced jewelry in that region must be removed.

If you are having a scan in the head or neck area, remove all makeup (some makeup has metallic particles in it) and all metallic items such as hair clips, earrings, and facial jewelry, including body-pierced items. Notify the technologist if you have any facial tattoos, such as eyeliner or eyebrow tattoos.

If you are having a scan in the chest area, or upper torso, avoid clothing and under-clothing with metal hooks or fasteners. For example, a sweatshirt with metallic decorations or body-pierced jewelry in that region will cause a problem.

Don't worry. If you don't have suitable clothing, we will give you a gown.

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Q: What will happen?

A: Depending on the type of MRI scanner and the type of scan your doctor ordered, the MRI technologist may wrap a special belt (actually an antenna) around the region of your body that is to be scanned. If you are having a head scan, your head will rest in a special fixture. Once you are comfortably positioned, the technologist will start the scan.

At that point, all you have to do is be as still as you can until the MRI exam is over – the stiller the better. The reason you have to lie still is that movement blurs the MRI images. Depending on what your doctor ordered and the area being scanned, the procedure will take between 15 and 45 minutes. The MRI technologist will be able to tell you how long it should take. You won't feel anything, but you will hear some low-volume, intermittent, rumbling noises throughout the scan. These sounds are normal. Our scanners are very quiet in comparison to "tunnel" MRI scanners whose sounds are sometimes described as firing machine guns or rattling garbage cans.

A microphone will be placed near you so you will be able to speak to the staff at any time during the exam. If you like, someone can be with you in the scanner room, provided it's safe for the person to be there. (A visitor is subject to the scanner's magnetic field too. So please make sure it is safe for the visitor to be in the scanner room. Click here for a discussion on MRI safety.) It is common for a parent to stay with a child. In fact, we encourage it.

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Q: Do I have to lie very still?

A: Yes - as still as you can. The more still you are during the scan, the better the MRI image will come out. Moving causes blurring in the picture. If you move too much, the pictures will be too blurry for the radiologist to see what he needs to see, and you will have to reschedule for another MRI exam.


Q: How long will it take?

A: That depends on what part of the body is to be scanned and whether or not your doctor has ordered any special or extra scans. Normally, the entire exam takes between 15 and 45 minutes.

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Q: Will I be able to drive after I have the exam?

A: Yes. The MRI has no known physiological side effects. However, if you have taken a sedative, there may be some restrictions.


Q: Will I be getting an injection?

A: Not likely. In certain situations, it may be necessary to inject a patient with a contrast agent in order for the proper diagnosis to be made. Your referring doctor will make that decision. In our experience, approximately 5 to 10 percent of patients require a contrast agent. For example, MRI exams of regions containing scar tissue from a previous surgical procedure are often best evaluated with the aid of a contrast agent.

The contrast agent is injected intravenously into the arm. The procedure is performed by a qualified healthcare professional. There are potential side effects. If you require the contrast agent, you will be made fully aware of possible side effects prior to the injection.

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Q: Is it OK to have an MRI if I´m pregnant?

A: If you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant, you must first consult with the physician before you have an MRI scan. You must also inform the staff at the MRI scanning center.

It has not been shown that MRI is harmful to unborn children. However, if you choose to have the MRI, you will be asked to sign a consent form, which must also be signed by your OBGYN.


Q: Can someone else stay with me in the MRI scanner room?

A: Yes. Since our MRI scanners are open, there is ample space for someone to accompany you into the scanner room, even hold your hand during the scan. Warning: The person accompanying the patient will be exposed to the scanner's magnetic field just as the patient is, so please make sure it is safe for the visitor to be there. Click here for more information.

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Q: When will I find out the results?

A: You won't find out at the time of the scan. The results or your MRI examination will be faxed and/or mailed directly to your doctor, normally within 24 hours. In turn, your doctor will explain them to you. Technologists are not qualified to interpret MRI examinations, nor are they allowed to, so please don't ask them for their opinions.