Our Guide to Getting an MRI – What to Expect

by | Jan 29, 2021 | MRI

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems have long been a blessing to facilities and patients alike. These machines have offered doctors painless ways to accurately diagnose patients through the clear and incredibly detailed images they produce. Even though they’re proven to be safe, many people still feel hesitant to undergo a scan since it often occurs in an enclosed room. 

If you feel anxious about your first MRI scan, be sure to communicate this to your doctor, especially if you struggle with an anxiety disorder. They may be able to sedate you or give you anti-anxiety medication to help you calm down. Still, knowing what to expect can smooth over your fears and relieve any worries you might have while undergoing a scan.

Here are some factors to consider while getting an MRI:

The Length of an MRI Scan

MRI scans can take anywhere between 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the type of scan performed. Since it can be lengthy, try your best to relax and close your eyes as the machine works around to capture images of your internal tissue and organs. Moving will compromise the quality of images generated, so try your best to stay still. If you have any questions or need to stop the scan for any reason, be sure to talk to the technologist, who will do their best to make you feel comfortable throughout the scan.

Preparing for an MRI Scan

You typically don’t have to prepare anything before going to your MRI scan. Unless the technologist or doctor tells you otherwise, continue taking your daily medicines. Your healthcare provider will also let you know of any dietary restrictions to keep in mind before your exam. Any guidelines about eating or drinking before the exam depend on the type of scan, so ensure that you ask the provider.

However, it’s best to go to your appointment at least 30 minutes before the exam so you have enough time to check-in and fill out paperwork. You’ll also have to put on medical scrubs or a hospital gown before the exam, and you’ll put your belongings away in a secured locker. It’s best to leave your jewelry at home as you cannot wear them during the exam. You may also have an IV line if the exam requires MRI contrast. 

Informing Staff of Any Medical Conditions

MRIs use an intense magnetic field exam to produce precise, detailed images, which may be incompatible with certain medical conditions. If you have a history of kidney problems, you may not be able to take the contrast, so be sure to let the technologist know. If you’re claustrophobic or pregnant, you must also inform the staff. 

Suppose you have to get an MRI exam for your brain or spine. In that case, you must also inform staff of related conditions, like spinal cord injuries, abnormalities or tumors, blood vessel problems, and any other irregularities you think they need to know. 

Let Staff Know of Possible Items That May Interfere With an MRI

Metals can pose a risk during an MRI examination, so you’ll need to let the staff know if you have any of the following:

  • Tattoos: they may contain pigments with ferromagnetic metallic compounds that can cause a cutaneous burn.
  • Pacemakers: these can disrupt when exposed to the radio waves and magnetic fields that MRIs need to scan the body
  • Makeup: some cosmetic products have metals that can react with MRI magnets.
  • Cochlear implants: many individuals feel pain and discomfort when wearing these during a scan.
  • Metallic implants and prosthesis: their metal build is dangerous for the magnets, as they can shift during an exam and cause injury.

For the full list of items that can disrupt your MRI, be sure to talk to the staff.



MRIs are safe and seamless procedures that offer medical professionals an intricate, detailed view of a person’s body. However, the examination tends to intimidate and stress people, especially since it may last for two hours. By knowing what to expect, you can assuage your fears and prepare adequately for your scan.

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