Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Understanding MRI

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is one of the most technologically advanced diagnostic tools available. MRI uses a powerful magnet, low intensity radio frequency pulses and computer technology to create detailed images of the soft tissues, muscles, nerves and bones in your body. In many instances, it replaces the need for X-rays, hospitalization and exploratory surgery. There are no known side effects of MRI, and it uses no radiation.

How MRI Scanners Work

The main component of the MRI scanner is a magnet. This magnet causes your body's hydrogen atoms to align themselves in such a way as to receive radio signals from the magnetic resonance system. When your body receives these signals, it reacts by sending its own radio signals back to the machine. It is this radio frequency transmitted by your body that is computer-processed and turned into highly detailed images.

Preparing for Your Scan

In general, there are no special preparations to follow before your exam. Because MRI uses a strong magnetic field, metal objects may interfere with the scan. For your convenience, we provide a locker to store your keys, jewelry and other valuables during the exam. We ask that you wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing, but you may be asked to change into a hospital gown for image quality and safety reasons.

Please check the following list carefully. All metallic/surgical implants must be assessed for safety before undergoing any MRI procedure. Common implants that may not be safe for MRI procedures include the following:

  • Pacemaker
  • Aneurysm clips in the brain
  • Inner ear (cochlear) implants
  • Implanted spinal cord stimulator
  • Metallic implants
  • Metal fragments in one of both eyes

Also, please alert our staff if you:

  • Have dental bridges
  • Wear a hearing aid(s)
  • Have ever been a metal worker
  • Are pregnant or think you might be

Because a paramagnetic agent (a type of contrast media) may be used, please tell your physician if you:

  • Are pregnant or think you might be
  • Are breastfeeding
  • Have anemia or any diseases that affect red blood cells
  • Have asthma or other allergic respiratory disorders

If you have any questions about your eligibility to have an MRI scan, consult wiht your physician.

Understanding Contrast Media

Certain types of MRI scans require the use of a safe paramagnetic agent or contrast media. This contrast media, which is given during the exam, enhances blood vessels and highlights certain body parts. You should receive complete instructions concerning the use of a contrast agent from your physician when he or she orders the test. Tell your physician before your exam if you have ever had an adverse reaction to contrast media. If a contrast agent is used, you should not eat or drink anything for four hours prior to the exam.

During the Exam

While the MRI test is being conducted, you will lie on a scanning bed with the body part of interest placed in the center of the magnet. If you are having a high-field MRI, the inside of the magnet chamber is cylindrical. Often times, a family member or friend may accompany you during the exam.

Your technologist will conduct the test from an adjacent room. You will be able to communicate with your technologist through a patient intercom system during the entire exam. You should remain relaxed and as still as possible. You will hear a knocking sound from the MRI system that ranges from barely audible to quite noticeable. Hearing protection or headphones will be provided when necessary. Most exams take 30 minutes or slightly longer to complete, and you may resume normal activities afterward.

A radiologist will interpret your exam, and the results will be sent to your physician as soon as possible.

Payment and Insurance

Please remember to bring your insurance information.

SouthCoast Imaging Center participates in most major insurance plans. We will be pleased to bill your insurance company for you, upon request.