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What is MRI?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technology uses a strong magnet, which is shaped like a long tube. The patient lies on a table that travels inside the tube. The strong magnetic field and radio waves are used to collect information about the patient’s body. Computers use this data to construct cross-sectional images often called “slices.” These slices can be constructed in any plane, and give the doctor detailed information about the anatomy in each specific location. There is no ionizing radiation involved in having an MRI scan.

MRI technology is advancing very rapidly. Older models have a narrow, deep tube for the patient to enter, while newer machines are much less deep and often have a roomier tube. The newest models also complete scans more quickly than their predecessors. Regional West has two 1.5 Tesla MRI scanners.  One is conveniently located within Medical Plaza North, near physician clinics. The other, newest scanner is located in the main Imaging Services Department. The newest scanner has a wider and shorter bore, making it more comfortable for most patients. Outpatient MRI scans can be scheduled from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Please note that many insurance companies now require pre-authorization before they will cover an MRI scan for an outpatient. It is wise to check with your insurance company ahead of time. MRI service is available around the clock for inpatients and emergency patients.

What is it like to have an MRI scan?

First, someone from the MRI area will go over a screening form with you to assure that you have no implanted devices or metal inside your body that would make it unsafe for you to enter the MRI scanner. Because some types of fabric fibers can react to the strong magnetic field, you will be required to change into hospital attire.

During the MRI exam, you will lie on a table that enters the bore of the magnet. You won’t feel anything, but the machine is very noisy as it goes through several sequences of images, so you will be given hearing protection headphones. Feel free to bring along your favorite music on CD or choose from music already on file to help pass the time. Most MRI exams require 30 to 60 minutes on the table. Some MRI exams will require the use of IV contrast. This contrast is injected into a vein through an IV while the images are being obtained. 

While in MRI you will be cared for by a registered radiologic technologist. This technologist is specially certified in MRI imaging by the National Association of Registered Radiologic Technologists. The technologist will assist you into the correct position, plan the scan, and operate the equipment. The technologist is assisted by a tech aide, who will help with paperwork, set up the scan room, and generally help you through the exam.

The completed images are examined by a board certified radiologist, and the report is sent directly to your physician, who will contact you with the results.