What is an MRI?

MRI uses a magnet and radio waves to acquire images of your body

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to create detailed images of the organs and structures inside of the body. MRI enables your doctor to see inside your body with great clarity from any angle.

MRI technology doesn’t use radiation and there are no known harmful effects from the magnetic field or exposure to radio waves associated with creating MRI images.

Preparing for an MRI exam

Prior to your scan, you will be asked to remove all metal or electronic objects from your body. These can interfere with the magnetic field and can be very dangerous if taken into the exam room. If you have ever had metal in your eyes you may need to have an X-ray of your head prior to undergoing an MRI.

No other preparation is necessary for an MRI exam.

  • Watches or jewelry
  • Cell phones or PDAs
  • Implanted medical devices (i.e. pacemaker, defibrillators)
  • Implanted metallic joint prostheses, artificial heart valves, cochlear implants, hearing aids or metallic dentures

For your safety

Tell your technologist and your doctor if:

  • You are pregnant or suspect you may be pregnant. Your doctor may postpone the exam or choose an alternative exam
  • You weigh more than 300 lbs
  • You have any of the following:

  • Cardiac pacemaker
  • Eye implants or metal ear
  • Claustrophobia
  • Penile implants
  • Metal implants
  • Shrapnel or non-removed bullets
  • Metal implants
  • Implanted medical devices
  • Aneurysm clips

Some MRI exams require patients to consume a contrast medium (either by mouth or intravenously) to create a better image. If you have allergies or asthma, there is a slight risk of an allergic reaction to the contrast. Most reactions result in itchiness or hives. If you have asthma and have an allergic reaction to the contrast medium, you may experience an asthma attack. In very rare instances, an allergic reaction may cause swelling in your throat or other areas of your body. Diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems or thyroid conditions also increase your risk of reaction to the contrast medium. Tell your technologist or doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms during or after your exam. Our staff and physicians are prepared should any type of emergency situation occur.

Important: Parents will not be allowed to remain in the MRI room with children who require sedation.

What to expect during an MRI exam

MRI exams are painless and typically last 30 minutes to one hour. The amount of time varies depending on the type and number of exams for which you are scheduled.

During the exam, you will lie on your back on a table that can be moved into the scanner. A coil or small antenna-like device may be placed over the body part to be examined. You will hear a series of thumping and tapping sounds while the machine is scanning. We will give you earplugs to minimize this noise and you will also have the option of listening to music during the exam. Our technologist will be there to monitor the test and you will have a microphone to speak with them at all times.

Some patients may feel anxious due to the confining nature of the MRI scanner. If you feel this way, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to prescribe a medication prior to your exam to help you relax. We also have open or wide bore MRI technology available at some locations that feels less confining and can make the exam easier for you.

Your doctor or radiologist may request that your MRI scan be enhanced using a contrast medium (usually a liquid such as barium or iodine that is ingested or injected) to help differentiate structures or fluids within your body. If contrast is required, the technologist will start an intravenous (IV) line in your hand or arm to administer the liquid.

When your exam is complete, you can leave and resume regular activities. If a sedative is administered for your exam, you will need to arrange transportation home.


A radiologist will review your exam images and report the findings to your doctor. Your doctor will then discuss the findings and next steps with you.