Getting Ready for Your First MRI

Are you getting ready to have your first MRI? You may feel nervous about it, but knowing what to expect can help.

MRI — magnetic resonance imaging — is performed so that the experts here at Barrington Orthopedic Specialists can look at your tissues and bones without doing surgery. The images produced by an MRI are detailed and can help your doctor diagnose a number of issues, conditions, and diseases.

The machine uses a strong magnetic field and low-energy radio waves. The magnetic field temporarily moves the hydrogen atoms in your body into alignment, then the radio waves move them out of alignment. When the radio waves stop, the atoms move on their own and produce radio signals — which is how the image is produced.

What to expect before an MRI

Here are some things you should know before your appointment:

  • You should not wear jewelry, or clothing with zippers, hooks, or buttons. You may be asked to not wear makeup.
  • You may be asked to wear a gown during your scan.
  • Sometimes you may need to have an injection prior to the MRI.

What to expect during an MRI

During the MRI, you’ll most likely be lying in a long, narrow tube-shaped machine. There are some open MRI machines, but most are closed tubes. Depending on the part of your body being scanned, you may only be partially in the machine.

You’ll need to remain perfectly still so that the image isn’t blurry. The tech may pose your body in a way that will result in the scan showing just what your doctor needs to see, but the poses are usually not uncomfortable.

Here are a few other things to expect during the scan:

  • It may last anywhere from 15-60 minutes.
  • You may be able to listen to music.
  • You need to stay awake, but you can close your eyes.
  • Expect to hear bumps and noises from the machine.
  • You’ll be able to communicate with the imaging tech during your scan.
  • You can ask to stop if you begin to panic.

Risks and side effects of an MRI

Generally, MRI is considered quite safe. There’s no radiation involved, and the scan itself is not known to cause harm to the vast majority of people.

If your scan requires contrast dye there’s slightly more risk. Severe reactions are especially rare, and there are medications available for immediate treatment. People with kidney problems are more prone to problems with the dye than others.

MRI scans are not recommended during pregnancy.

Our healthcare experts at Barrington Orthopedic Specialists thoroughly discuss your medical history with you prior to ordering an MRI, and are happy to answer your questions or address any concerns you may have about the test.