Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

The magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner creates images that represent slices through the body without using X-ray. MRI uses a powerful, but safe, magnetic field and radio waves like those that transmit FM radio stations.

The combination of the magnetic field and radio waves is used to create images of body structures, including the brain, spine, joints, abdominal and pelvic organs, and blood vessels. MRI scans are used to diagnose tumors, strokes, back problems, joint problems, diseases of arteries and many other disorders and abnormalities. The images produced may demonstrate conditions that do not show up on X-ray exams. The results may help determine your diagnosis and/or the best course of treatment.

What preparation is needed?

  • Please bring a list of your current medications when you come for your appointment.
  • The preparation will vary depending on the area being imaged. If the exam is of the abdomen, you will not be able to eat or drink for six hours before the exam. If you are claustrophobic, your physician may prescribe a sedative to take prior to the exam to help you relax. Please inform MRI staff if you have taken a sedative. Some patients may need to be given a sedative through the IV if they are very claustrophobic. This will be scheduled through Ambulatory Care.
  • Please remove and leave ALL jewelry at home. You will be asked to change clothing before the exam.

Who performs the examination?

The MRI scan will be performed by a registered radiology technologist.

Is MRI for everybody?

While most people can undergo an MRI exam without problems, some cannot. The staff in the Radiology Department will ask you questions like the following:

  • Can you lie flat for the duration of the exam?
  • Do you suffer from claustrophobia?
  • Are you pregnant/breast feeding?

Since the MRI is a powerful magnet, you will be asked the following kinds of questions:

  • Do you have any implanted devices like a cardiac pacemaker, aneurysm clip, neurostimulator, infusion pump or hearing aid?
  • Do you have metal shrapnel in your body or metal fragments in your eyes?


Remember the questioning process is a two-way street. After providing all the necessary information, please let us know of any concerns you have about the upcoming exam. The technologists expect questions; part of their job is to answer questions and make certain you are comfortable with the exam.

What happens before and during the examination?

  • Please allow 60 minutes for this exam.
  • When you arrive at the MRI center, you will be asked to remove all personal possessions such as your watch, wallet, and car keys, along with any other metallic items. These items will remain in a locked cabinet during your exam and the key will be in the room with you.
  • It is very important not to take anything that could be affected by the magnet into the examining room. For example, the information on your credit cards could be erased if you had them in your pocket during the exam!
  • During the examination you will lie on a padded table and be positioned in the magnet so the appropriate part of your body is ready to be scanned. The MRI unit looks like a large box with an open-ended tunnel running through it. The table will move partially into this “tunnel.”
  • The MRI unit makes loud knocking and banging sounds. You will be given headphones to protect your hearing and you will be allowed to listen to music of your choice. The technologist will talk with you during the exam. It is very important to hold still for the duration of the exam. Any motion will make the MRI pictures look blurry. 
  • For some exams, the technologist or a nurse will start an IV to give you a contrast agent that highlights certain organs, blood vessels, tumors, etc.

What about the results?

Once the study is complete, the images will be studied and interpreted by a radiologist. The radiologist will compare the MRI scan to previous MRI scans, CT scans, and X-rays. A report will be available for your physician.

If you have any questions, please call the MRI Department, 217-245-9541, ext. 3111.