MRI Scans: Key things you should know

MRI device

MRI scans work by using powerful magnetic fields and radioactive waves to generate extremely detailed images of the body.

Although it is common for patients to fear the mere idea of lying on a table and going inside a box for an MRI, the procedure only takes about 45 minutes and is completely pain-free. Patients who have claustrophobia or PTSD may opt for open MRIs that are more ‘roomy’ and feel less confining. 

Whether you opt for traditional MRI machines or an open MRI scan, there are a few things you should know before visiting a Gold Coast MRI clinic

MRIs are Pain-Free

MRIs are popular with doctors and patients alike because they are non-invasive and provide a wealth of information about the body without requiring surgery. There is a small risk because of exposure to radio waves and magnetic fields, but the overall risk profile of MRI scans is extremely safe. If you are concerned about some of the side effects, make sure to discuss them with your doctor.

The Exam May Have to be Modified for You

Make sure to notify the radiology staff if you have a pacemaker, skin tattoos, or metallic implants. Try to be as transparent about your surgeries as possible to prevent any risks and complications. In some cases, the exam may have to be modified for your particular condition.

There Are Very Few Preparations Required

An MRI scan requires relatively few steps for patients to prepare. This means you can take go about your daily routine as you normally would unless told otherwise. You will be instructed to change into a gown and remove anything that might influence the magnetic imaging, such as jewellery and hairpins.

You may be provided with a secure locker to leave your belongings in while you’re undergoing the MRI exam. It is always a good idea to leave expensive pieces of items at home.

Length of Time May Vary

A big advantage of MRI scans is the speed at which the exam is performed. In some case, you can be done in less than 30 minutes, although some devices may take up to 90 minutes. It is important to be very still otherwise, you may have to start over. More on this below.

Stay Very Still

You will be instructed to lay still in the machine for the technician to take proper pictures. Even the tiniest movements can lower the accuracy of the photos and scramble the information. This is why you will be asked to stay focused and not let your mind wander around. This step may be difficult for patients who are claustrophobic and frightened of small enclosures.

Listening to your favourite music and having a family member stand nearby to provide comfort can be a good decision to make. Make sure to control your breathing by inhaling through the nose and slowly exhaling through the mouth.

Some clinics provide patients with MRI-compatible goggles to watch movies and stay entertained during the exam. This is especially useful for children who may feel easily bored because of the exam.

MRI Machines Can Be Loud

MRI machines are loud because the underlying technology behind them uses large magnets and radio transmitters to create images of the body’s tissue. Many scanners can produce fields that are up to 60,000 times stronger than the earth’s magnetic field. When these exams are performed, the constant switching of the currents can cause the coils to expand, making very sounds.

Some MRI devices can create noises in the range of 130 decibels. For reference, the sound of a jet plane taking off is around 120 decibels.

Patients often describe the sound of an MRI in the following words:

  • Banging
  • Clanging
  • Beeping
  • Clicking

Remove All Metals from Your Body

Metals are strictly not allowed in an MRI machine because they will interfere with the exam. This is why it is very important to complete the safety screen with accuracy. It is very easy for MRI technicians to miss hearing aids, aneurysm clips, bullet wounds, and medicine patches. Make sure you inform them of these devices otherwise, this may result in an inaccurate result.

Watch Out for Allergic Reactions to the Contrast Dye

It is rare but possible for some patients to develop an allergic reaction to the contrast dye used. Be sure to watch for allergic reactions in the hours after your exam. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Rash
  • Shortness of breath
  • Itchiness
  • Hives

Call your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms and notify the imaging centre of your concerns.

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