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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

This test uses a magnetic field, radiofrequency pulses, and a computer to produce detailed images of body structures in multiple planes. Some people may need an IV put in place so caregivers can inject a contrast solution into their veins. This depends on the exam the doctor has ordered. MRI is a more detailed tool than x-ray and ultrasound and for certain organs or areas of the body, it provides better images than CT.

Unlike other imaging options, MRI displays details of tissue such as tendons, nerves, muscle, and organs. MRI measures the water content (or fluid characteristics) of different tissues, which is processed by the computer to create a black and white image. The image is highly detailed and can show even the smallest abnormality. MRI may not be recommended if for people who have a pacemaker or other metal implants.

Specialty Services / Procedures

  • Cardiac Imaging
  • Functional Brain Imaging
  • MR Guided Breast Biopsies
  • Routine Breast Imaging
  • Prostate Imaging
  • MR Enterography
  • Pediatric Exams with and without conscious sedation
MRI machine shown from the side

What Can I Expect Before My Exam?

Many exams involve IV contrast, which helps highlight the tissues and give the radiologist different information about an area(s) of interest to help make a diagnosis. Any patient receiving IV contrast as part of their exam also receives a blood test to make sure the contrast is safe for them. MRI also has one exam that uses oral contrast to help visualize the digestive track.

Because the MRI has a powerful magnetic field, patients will be screened and checked to make absolutely sure they don’t have any metal objects with them before entering the scan room. Staff also needs to know specific details about any implants in the body.

The technologist performing the exam will monitor the patient throughout the scan and they are also able to talk with each other the entire time.

MRI exams require people to lie still for the entire length of the study. Most people are able to complete the exam easily, but for those who are uncomfortable, there are staff trained to assist them in completing the exam through relaxation and visualization techniques.

Every exam is interpreted by a radiologist with specialty expertise in the specific area of the body being imaged. A specialist is capable of seeing and understanding subtle things due to advanced training and singular focus.

There is no preparation necessary for an MRI except for people having an exam called an MRCP, an exam of the gallbladder and the ducts associated with it, or an enterography. Patients having an enterography will have been given fasting and preparation instructions for prior to arrival.

Upon arrival, patients are asked to complete an MR Environment Screening form and an MRI Contrast History form if the exam involves contrast.

For people having an enterography exam, they will be given an oral contrast as well and will need to wait 2 hours after drinking it to allow it to coat their intestines completely.

People who are claustrophobic, should consult their physician prior to the day of the appointment for assistance, as the department is not licensed to dispense medication.

What Can I Expect During My Exam?

Once in the scan room, the technologist will explain the exam before it begins and will give the patient ear plugs to muffle the noise the machine makes. The patient will be asked to lie on their back or stomach, and should plan to be in the machine for at least 45 minutes in order to complete the exam. Patients must remain still and quiet for the entire exam, as any movement, even speaking, can make the images blurry. The technologist monitors the patient the entire time, and may tell the patient to hold their breath for some parts of the exam. Once the scan is complete, the technologist will review the images to make sure all the information needed is there. Then the patient is brought out of the scanner. The technologist will then remove the IV, if applicable, and bring the patient out of the room to change back into their clothes.

The average MRI exam takes about 45 minutes. People scheduled for an MRI should expect to be at BMC for about 1-1.5 hours. Patients having an enterography, may be at BMC up to 3 hours.

What Can I Expect After My Exam?

Once the test has been completed people can return home and resume normal activities.

When Can I Expect My Results?

Once the radiologist reads the images, the ordering physician will typically receive the results within 24 to 48 hours. The ordering physician will go over the findings with their patient.

To obtain copies images, please call the film library at 617.414.5882.

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