MRI scan

woman lying flat about to enter an MRI scanning machine, while a male doctor watches her

MRI scan stands for magnetic resonance imaging. This is a scan that uses magnetic energy and radio waves to build up a picture of the tissues inside your body. MRI scans can produces images from different angles all around the body. Sometimes your doctor will use a CT scan and an MRI scan to build a clearer picture of your organs.

Before the test

A form will need to be completed before the MRI to ensure that it is safe for you to have a MRI scan. You may have an injection before the scan to show up certain parts of your body. Before the scan you may be asked not to eat or drink beforehand, and you will need to remove any hair clips, jewellery, prosthetics or anything else that might contain metal. Those who have certain medical devices in their body, like a pacemaker or metal pin, are not suitable for the test.

During the test

You will lie inside a tunnel-like machine. The machine is quite noisy, but you’ll be given earplugs or headphones to wear during it. It is important that you keep as still as possible during the scan. You may feel anxious about the scan, but every effort will be made to put you at your ease. Tell the radiographer if you’re feeling nervous.

You will be on your own in the room but the radiographer can see you and hear you and will be able to talk to you through an intercom. If you need anything you can talk to the radiographer or just raise your hand, or you may have a buzzer to press.

How long does it last?

An MRI can last anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour. It depends on how big the area being scanned is and the number of images being taken. 

After the test

Most people will be able to go home immediately afterwards.

MRI scan video

Cancer Research UK has a helpful video on this test

For more information

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