What Patients Should Know About Getting An MRI Exam

by | Jan 29, 2021 | MRI

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Healthcare professionals use MRIs to diagnose or to collect vital information about a patient’s prognosis. MRIs can detect joint problems, spinal infections, disc abnormalities, nerve root disorders, brain or heart injuries or abnormalities, and tumors. A doctor could order an MRI scan when they suspect injury or illness that do not show on X-rays or ultrasounds.


What Happens During an MRI Scan?

The scan will take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the complexity of the image your technologist must take. One of the first things you will notice is that you will hear loud tapping, knocking, or thumping sounds from the machine. The sounds are not from loose MRI parts; it is expected. Your technologist will also give you headphones for music to listen to during the scan.

When you go in for the scan, you will lie down on the table and stay still. The technologist may ask you to hold your breath for a few seconds depending on the area they are screening. They will also tell you when you can breathe and exhale. You shouldn’t need to hold your breath for more than a few seconds at a time.

If your doctor wants to perform a contrast MRI, they will inject you with gadolinium or other contrast agents that light up during a scan, enabling the doctor to get a more detailed look at your brain, heart, or blood vessels. When they inject the dye into the IV line, you might feel a flush of coldness, a metallic taste in your mouth, a brief headache, nausea, vomiting, and some itching. These side effects do not last longer than a few moments.

Some people are concerned that injecting contrast material made from rare earth metals could be harmful to humans. According to the American College of Radiology, healthcare facilities perform millions of contrast MRIs every year, and they observe no problems. Besides the allergic reactions, which occur in less than one percent of cases, using contrast materials should not produce anything other than mild discomfort for most people.


What Do I Need to Do When Preparing for a Scan?

The things you need to prepare for a scan depend on the type of MRI examination you will need. In general, though, it is best to arrive at least 30 minutes before your exam so you can check-in and fill out the necessary forms, put on medical scrubs, and secure your belongings. Arriving half an hour early also means you can get your IV line placed (in case of an MRI contrast). 

What you must do, though, is inform the technologist if you have existing conditions that could prevent you from having the MRI. When you schedule an appointment, let the staff know if you have a history of kidney problems. Contrast agents with gadolinium could increase your risk for a rare disease called nephrogenic systemic fibrosis.

Pregnant women, no matter what trimester they are in, should not have a contrast MRI. Gadolinium increases the risk for neonatal death, stillbirth, and infiltrative, rheumatological, or inflammatory skin conditions. Claustrophobic people should also inform their technologist beforehand, so they could receive a sedative when necessary.

Aside from this, you should also inform the staff if you have certain conditions. People with spinal cord or brain conditions, abnormalities or tumors in organs, blood vessel and heart structure problems, bone and joint irregularities, and inflammatory bowel diseases might need special preparations for MRIs.


What Else Should I Know About MRIs?

If you have a pacemaker, skin tattoos, an insulin pump, cochlear implants, or metallic prosthetics or implants, you must inform the technologist before the appointment. These materials can interfere in different ways with the MRI procedure, and they could harm you or cause the MRI parts to malfunction. If you have makeup or nail polish on, you must remove it as well. Some cosmetics have metals that could interact with MRI magnets.

After the scan, you might need to rest for a while, especially if you took a sedative. You would also need someone to drive you home. Otherwise, you do not need to do anything special for recovery.



MRI scans can look intimidating at first, but everything will be smooth-sailing once you know what to expect. Ensure you inform the staff ahead of time if you have conditions that could cause complications, such as the ones above. Also, make sure you do not have any materials on you that could interfere with the procedure, like prosthetics or makeup.

Aside from getting to know the process, it helps to know that the machine itself works well. At Direct Med Parts, you are sure that you’re getting high-quality MRI parts and service. Contact us today to learn more!

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