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What To Expect With an MRI Before Scheduling an Appointment

  • May 10 2023

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is one of the most useful medical diagnostic tools in modern-day medicine. They are indispensable instruments with the ability to provide in-depth imaging and insight into internal injuries without invasive procedures. 

MRIs use powerful magnets and radio waves to create detailed images of organs, bones, and soft tissues. From brain tumors and spinal cord injuries to joint problems and cardiovascular disease, MRIs can help provide safe and effective diagnostic information.

However, many people are apprehensive of any medical procedure, even one that is as noninvasive and safe as an MRI. To alleviate any uncertainty about MRIs, read on to learn what to expect with an MRI

A doctor guiding her patient into an MRI machine. What To Wear for an MRI Scan

Even though clothing is usually the last thing people think about before going to the doctor, it can significantly impact an MRI scan. Given the magnetic nature of an MRI and the magnetic properties that metals have, even small pieces of metal can interfere with the imaging. 

With that in mind, wearing soft, comfortable clothing without zippers or buttons is best. However, your doctor may ask you to change into a hospital gown or other clothing they provide to ensure that no metal enters the machine. 

In addition, always leave your necklaces, bracelets, watches, or other jewelry at home. You will also need to remove any piercings before the scan. 

Why Is an MRI So Loud?

One of the most important parts of what to expect with an MRI is the loud noises that last the duration of the scan. While you will hear loud banging noises and sometimes think that the machine is tearing itself apart, such noises are entirely normal

The loud noises are simply a result of an electric current being sent through a coiled wire that causes it to expand and contract. To help lessen the noise, you will be given earplugs or headphones that play a calming soundscape to help you relax. 

A senior patient in an MRI machine getting his torso scanned. How Long Is an MRI?

The length of the scan varies widely depending on the body part that needs imaging. If the area is larger or more complex, you could be in the MRI for about an hour. If the affected area is small, you may only need 15 minutes of scanning. 

Injections Before an MRI

An important part of what to expect with an MRI is that an MRI may require a contrast agent injected into your body to help highlight certain structures or areas of concern. The contrast agent is a type of dye that can be seen on MRI images and helps to distinguish specific tissues from others. If you need a contrast agent, your MRI technologist will explain the process and any potential risks beforehand.

MRI vs. X-ray

Many patients wonder how an MRI is different from an X-ray. While both imaging techniques produce images of the body’s internal structures, they use different technologies. X-rays use ionizing radiation to create images, while MRIs use powerful magnets and radio waves. Because of this, MRIs are considered safer than X-rays because they don’t expose patients to ionizing radiation.

MRIs also produce more detailed images than X-rays, making them better suited for imaging soft tissues like muscles, tendons, and organs. However, X-rays are still helpful for imaging bones and can be quicker and less expensive than an MRI.

Two doctors discussing brain imaging from an MRI scan. Next Steps

An MRI can initially seem daunting, but knowing what to expect with an MRI can help ease your nerves. Wear comfortable, nonmetallic clothing, expect loud noises, and be prepared to stay still for up to an hour. If you require a contrast agent, your MRI technologist will explain the process beforehand. And remember, an MRI is a safe and effective way to diagnose many conditions and help your healthcare provider develop a treatment plan tailored to your needs.

If you suspect you are injured or need an MRI, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with the industry-leading medical professionals at South Island Orthopedics. 

In the meantime, download SI Orthos’ complimentary eBook, Orthopedic Bone and Joint Health for the Entire Family: Visiting South Island Orthopedics. In it, you will learn everything you need to know about the care at SI Ortho, including:

  • Our team of providers
  • Locations and operating hours
  • Conditions we treat
  • Details about our care approach
  • And much more

To download your free copy, click here.

Posted in: General & Pediatric Orthopaedic Care