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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Man lying on back on MRI table. Table is ready to go into MRI tube. Healthcare provider is standing beside man.
You will be asked to hold very still during the scan.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a test that lets your doctor see detailed pictures of the inside of your body. MRI combines the use of strong magnets and radio waves to form an MRI image.

Before your test

  • You may need to stop eating or drinking before the test. Each health care facility has its own guidelines on this. It also depends on the type of exam you are having. Ask your health care provider if you should stop eating or drinking before the test.

  • Ask your provider if you should stop taking any medicine before the test.

  • Follow your normal daily routine unless your provider tells you otherwise.

  • You'll be asked to remove your watch, jewelry, hearing aids, credit cards, pens, pocket knives, eyeglasses, and other metal objects.

  • You may be asked to remove your makeup. Makeup may contain some metal.

  • Most MRI tests take 30 to 60 minutes. Depending on the type of MRI you are having, the test may take longer. Give yourself extra time to check in.

 

MRI uses strong magnets. Metal is affected by magnets and can distort the image. The magnet used in MRI can cause metal objects in your body to move. If you have a metal implant, you may not be able to have an MRI unless the implant is certified as MRI safe. People with these implants should not have an MRI:

  • Ear (cochlear) implants

  • Certain clips used for brain aneurysms

  • Certain metal coils put in blood vessels

  • Most defibrillators

  • Most pacemakers

Be sure to tell the radiologist or technologist if you:

  • Have had any previous surgeries

  • Have a pacemaker, surgical clips, metal plate or pins, an artificial joint, staples or screws, ear (cochlear) implants, or other implants

  • Wear a medicated adhesive patch

  • Have metal splinters in your body

  • Have implanted nerve stimulators or drug-infusion ports

  • Have tattoos or body piercings. Some tattoo inks contain metal.

  • Work with metal

  • Have braces. You must remove any dental work.

  • Have a bullet or other metal in your body

Also tell the radiologist or technologist if you:

  • Are pregnant or think you may be

  • Are afraid of small, enclosed spaces (claustrophobic)

  • Are allergic to X-ray dye (contrast medium), iodine, shellfish, or any medicines

  • Have other allergies

  • Are breastfeeding

  • Have any serious health problems. This includes kidney disease or a liver transplant. You may not be able to have the contrast material used for MRI.

 

During your test

  • You may be asked to wear a hospital gown.

  • You may be given earplugs to wear if you need them.

  • You may be injected with a special dye (contrast) that improves the MRI image. 

  • You’ll lie down on a platform that slides into the magnet.

After your test

  • You can get back to normal activities right away. If you were given contrast, it will pass naturally through your body within a day. You may be told to drink more water or other fluids during this time. 

  • Your doctor will discuss the test results with you during a follow-up appointment or over the phone.

  • Your next appointment is: __________________

Online Medical Reviewer: Dozier, Tennille, RN, BSN, RDMS
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Pierce-Smith, Daphne, RN, MSN, CCRC
Last Review Date: 12/29/2013
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.