Having an MRI: What to Expect
No metal allowed, and that includes your clothing.
If your doctor has recommended an MRI, you may initially feel a little anxiety about the procedure—especially if it’s the first time you’ve ever had one. Most people’s idea of what happens during an MRI is based on what they’ve heard from a friend or family member. In most cases, the information they get is outdated and the days of the claustrophobia-inducing dark tunnel that used to be routinely part of the MRI experience are much less common.
In fact, Abington-Jefferson Health has state-of-the-art MRI technology that is likely more advanced than what your friend or family member may have experienced in the past. Some of the MRI machines are now nearly 20 percent larger than other older MRI machines. This means you’ll have more space to relax and be comfortable during the procedure.
“The MRIs of today are much more spacious than they used to be,” said Philip Lim, M.D., chair of the Department of Radiology at Abington-Jefferson Health. “While no one really looks forward to the procedure, most patients experience very little discomfort. The most difficult part for many people is the anticipation of the MRI.”
How to Prepare
In general, you won’t have too much preparation to do before your MRI, but there are some guidelines you should keep in mind.
“Typically you can follow your regular routine when it comes to eating, drinking, and taking your medications before the MRI,” said Dr. Lim. “What you do before the MRI may need to change for certain types of exams, but your doctor or the MRI facility will let you know about these changes beforehand.”
Wear a Gown
For your safety, you may also be asked to wear a hospital gown during the exam because many types of clothing can have metal zippers, fasteners, or even metal fibers that could potentially interact with the strong magnetic field in the MRI room. Some athletic wear and yoga pants include metallic fibers designed to reduce odors; these can lead to painful burns if worn during an MRI. It is always safer to wear a gown provided by the facility performing the MRI.
A Note About Metal and MRIs
An MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, uses a powerful magnetic field, radiowaves and a computer to create images of your body. This can include images of your internal organs, bones and tissues. Since a magnetic field is involved, you have to be careful with metal around the machine.
“Patients should not bring any metal objects into the MRI exam room, including jewelry, eye glasses, and other metal they may be wearing,” said Dr. Lim.
Implanted Medical Devices
An MRI can be performed for most patients with implanted medical devices, but you must always tell your doctor and radiologist about these devices before the exam. Some medical devices may be labeled by the manufacturer as MR unsafe or MR conditional, meaning they are not safe to enter the MRI room, or may need extra consideration and planning prior to an MRI examination. Examples of medical devices which may be MR unsafe or MR conditional include:
- Cochlear (ear) implants
- Clips used for brain aneurysms
- Metal coils placed within blood vessels
- Cardiac defibrillators and pacemakers
Tattoos are another potential source of metal in the body that can interact with the MRI environment. Some patients with tattoos may experience discomfort or irritation during an MRI, since tattoo ink includes metallic components that may heat up in the MRI machine. Large and dark colored tattoos may be more prone to discomfort during MRI. Such discomfort can often be eased with the placement of a cold compress over the tattoo. Tattoos less than 2 weeks old may smear and it may be prudent to wait until tattoos have had time to heal if the MRI is not urgent.
MRI Safety Certification
The MRI Department at Abington-Jefferson Health is at the forefront of MR safety and awareness. Before the start of every MRI examination, a standardized and comprehensive screening process is performed to ensure that it is safe for a patient to enter the MRI exam room.
As part of a larger MR safety initiative that is gaining national and international attention, two of the radiologists at Abington-Jefferson Health. Drs. Philip Lim, MD, MRMD and Courtney Woodfield, MD, MRMD have obtained MR Medical Director (MRMD) safety certification status from the American Board of Magnetic Resonance Safety (ABMRS). Nationally, very few radiologists have passed this rigorous safety certification examination. This certification further adds to the robust safety culture at Abington Hospital and Abington-Lansdale Hospital.
To schedule a radiology test, call 215-481-EXAM.