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What Happens During the Procedure?

Thursday, April 19, 2012 - 13:56

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

  • When you arrive at the hospital, clinic, or laboratory where the test is to take place, you are usually asked to fill out the MRI screening questionnaire (unless this has been done previously).
  • You can wear regular clothing as long as it is free of metal (zippers, buttons, etc).
  • You must remove all metal objects, including jewelry, and electronic devices (such as a watch), as these will interfere with the test and may be damaged by the strong magnetic field within the MRI scanner.
  • The technician or nurse will prepare you for the procedure, which may include oral or intravenous sedation by the radiologist, or anesthesia by an anesthesiologist.
  • The technician will take you to the scanning table, which resembles a narrow bed, and position you for the test.
  • Before the MRI begins, the table is moved to the doughnut-shaped magnet (it looks like a large box with an opening in the center). After the machine is adjusted, the MRI begins.
  • The usual procedure is that the technologist will perform the MRI with the radiologist, and they will be in contact at all times. During the procedure, you will hear several series of loud, repetitive pulsing noises. In many instances, you will be given protective headphones or ear plugs. These noises may be initially be frightening, but they are harmless and indicate that the machine is working. It is particularly important to remain completely still during these sequences of noises, as the MRI machine is obtaining images at these times.
  • If the first pictures are motion-free, it will shorten the total exam time and prevent delays.
  • An entire MRI exam may take from 20 minutes to 1.5 hours, depending on the type of information required by the radiologist and your physician, and the quality of the images they need to make a diagnosis.
  • All people who have sedation or anesthesia will receive continuous monitoring and support during this time.

Need To Know:

The images are taken in 'sets' lasting anywhere between a few minutes to 15 minutes for each set. The technician will usually tell you when each new set commences. You need to lie still during these sets if good quality images are to be obtained.

What Should You Do After the Test?

After the images are obtained, you can resume normal activities immediately.

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