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What to Expect During Your MRI Exam

When a doctor orders an MRI, patients know they’re coming to find out more about their health concern or the extent of an injury. What they don’t know, is what to expect during the MRI exam. At Wake Radiology, your MRI experience is important to us. That’s why we’ve pulled together information about what to expect during and after your MRI exam.

What is an MRI?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) combines a powerful magnet with an advanced computer system and radio waves to produce accurate, detailed images of your body. It is useful to study all parts of the body: brain, spine, breasts, joints and internal organs. MRI’s are a safe, non-invasive tests that do not use ionizing radiation (x-rays). At Wake Radiology, only certified MRI technologists work with patients to obtain these detailed images and help them successfully complete their exam.

Completing Our Safety Check List

When you arrive, we ask you to check in at our front desk. We’ll confirm basic personal and health information and then give you an MRI safety checklist to complete. We are required to review this with every patient before entering the MRI scan room. It is important that we know about any implantable device or metal that is in or outside of your body, like aneurysm clips, pacemakers, cochlear implants, insulin pumps, neurostimulators or any injury to your eyes involving metal slivers or shavings.

One of our MRI technologists will walk you to a changing room where you will change into scrub pants and a scrub top or a gown. It’s important that patients remove all clothing prior to their MRI exam. We ask patients to remove:

  • All outer clothing, including shoes
  • Bras or any under garment that could have metal in it. Most underwear may be worn.
  • Glasses
  • Jewelry – watch, earrings, necklace, bracelets, etc.
  • Hair pins, barrettes or other hair accessories containing metal
  • Purses, wallets, cell phones

All personal items are placed in a locker and secured. Before walking to the exam room, we’ll review your medical history and your MRI safety checklist again, confirming that you are not wearing anything that contains metal.

Preparing for the Exam

As we enter the exam room, we’ll confirm the procedure that your doctor ordered and fully explain what is about to happen. Some exams require patients to go into the MRI machine head first, while others enter feet first. It’s important that we get the body part that we’re going to image into the center of the magnet. This ensures we obtain the best possible images of that section of the body.

You will lie down on a moveable table during your procedure and you may have a blanket, if desired. An imaging device called a coil may be placed around the area of the body that will be imaged. The coil is a plastic framework that cradles the head, joint or body during the exam and helps us obtain better quality images. Depending on the type of exam that is ordered, you may need an MRI contrast material to further detect or diagnose potential abnormalities. If so, the technologist will place an IV in your arm to administer the MRI contrast.

Next, we will give you a pair of headphones and an emergency call bell to hold. These items ensure you can hear the MRI technologist during the entire exam and communicate if there is any concern. We will explain how the exam is made up of small scans during which you will need to hold as still as possible and answer any final questions you may have. We’ve found that most patients, even those who are extremely nervous, are more comfortable when they know exactly what to expect. Our technologist will remain in the room until you are properly positioned and comfortable.

Our MRI technologists have extensive experience in reducing patient stress, worry and anxiety during an MRI. We understand how important this imaging procedure is and we work closely with our patients to make them comfortable and help them complete the exam. If you require sedation for your MRI exam, please notify our team. A responsible adult driver is required to be on site before, during and after your MRI exam to drive you home and monitor you.

During the MRI

When you are ready for the exam, the technologist will walk into an adjacent room that has a large window that looks into the MRI room. Our technologists can see the patient during the entire MRI exam. The technologist then confirms that you can hear them and will continue to update and coach you throughout the procedure. We routinely tell patients exactly what is happening and how quickly they are moving through the exam. Time between scans can vary as the technologist reviews the images and sets up the next scan. This is normal and no reason for alarm.

During the MRI, you will hear knocking or buzzing sounds from the machine. Again, this is normal. These knocking noises only last while images are being taken. Your headphones or earplugs help dampen these sounds. Your MRI technologist will communicate with you after each scan. Once the exam is complete, the technologist will come back into the exam room to help you out of the machine and escort you to the changing area. You will change back into your own clothes and are now free to go.

Getting Your Results

Once the MRI is complete, your images are immediately routed to one of our subspecialty trained radiologists for interpretation. For example, if you had a knee MRI, we make sure that your images are interpreted by one of our musculoskeletal/orthopedic radiologists. If previous images are available, we obtain these and our doctor compares the current exam with this historical information. This helps us determine changes and how those should factor into a diagnosis. Our radiologist then provides an actionable report to your doctor who ordered the MRI. Your doctor will follow up with you regarding your results and develop a treatment plan based on that diagnosis.

Scheduling Your MRI

The goal for all Wake Radiology MRI technologists is to make you comfortable during your scan and for your MRI experience as pleasant as possible. Our patients routinely tell us that they appreciate our compassion, care and expertise and that it is what sets us apart from other local imaging facilities.

If you need an MRI, talk with your doctor about having your procedure at one of our MRI outpatient offices located in Cary, Garner, Fuquay-Varina, Raleigh and Wake Forest. If you need to schedule an MRI, contact our MRI Scheduling Team at 919-232-4700, Option 1.

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