Reviewed by Sebastian Turner (Radiology Manager) and Lisa Serevena (Quality Lead Diagnostic Radiology)
An MRI is a type of scan that creates detailed images of the inside of your body. Your doctor or healthcare professional has recommended an MRI scan because it is the best way to make an accurate diagnosis of your condition.
What is an MRI scan?
An MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging, is a safe and painless medical test that uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create detailed images of the inside of your body. It helps doctors to view your organs, tissues, and bones in detail, allowing them to diagnose and monitor various health conditions. The procedure does not involve any radiation and is generally very safe. Depending on the area being scanned, an MRI scan can last between 15-90 minutes. Your scan is undertaken by specially trained Radiographers.
How will I know if I need an MRI?
Your doctor may refer you for an MRI if they need more detailed information about your health condition that cannot be obtained through other tests, such as X-rays or ultrasounds. Some common reasons that someone may need an MRI include:
- Unexplained pain: If you have ongoing or severe pain in your body, an MRI can help identify the cause and location of the problem.
- Suspected injuries: If you have had an injury or accident, an MRI can provide a clear view of your bones, muscles, and soft tissues to assess the extent of the damage.
- Neurological issues: An MRI is valuable for evaluating brain and spinal cord problems such as tumours, strokes, multiple sclerosis, or nerve-related disorders.
- Abnormalities in organs: It can help detect issues within organs including the heart, liver, kidneys, or reproductive organs.
- Monitoring chronic conditions: For some conditions such as cancer, an MRI can help track the progress and response to treatment.
How can I book an MRI?
To book an MRI, you will need a referral from a healthcare professional. If you have an outpatient consultation with a Nuffield Health consultant, they will refer you for a scan if clinically appropriate. You can also use a referral from an external consultant, just email your referral to your chosen Nuffield Health hospital and a member of the team will call you back.
How should I prepare for an MRI?
- Clothing: Wear comfortable clothing without any metal objects, such as zippers, snaps or metal threads woven into your clothing to your appointment. Remove any metal items from your body such as jewellery, watches, or piercings, before the scan. The MRI machine uses powerful magnets, so it is essential to avoid metal near the machine. You may be asked to change into a gown or other suitable clothing prior to your scan.
- Food and drink: You can usually eat and drink as usual before the MRI scan, unless you are given specific instructions otherwise.
- Medications: Inform your doctor about any medications you are taking. In most cases, you can continue taking them as usual, but it is essential to provide a complete list to your healthcare team.
- Inform your doctor: Let your doctor know if you have any metal implants, pacemakers, or other medical devices, as some of these may not be compatible with the MRI scanner.
- Pregnancy: If you are pregnant or think you might be, please inform your doctor. In some cases, MRI may not be recommended during pregnancy, especially in the early stages.
- Questions: If you have any questions or concerns about the MRI procedure, please do not hesitate to ask your healthcare team. They are there to help and ensure your comfort throughout the process.
What happens during an MRI?
- Getting Ready: You will be asked to change into a hospital gown and remove any metal objects such as jewellery, watches, or hairpins. If needed, a contrast dye may be injected into your veins to enhance the images obtained.
- Positioning: You will lie down on a special table, and the Radiographer will help you get into the right position for the scan. It is essential to remain still during the procedure to ensure clear images.
- Entering the machine: The table will slide into a large, tube-shaped machine. The machine has a wide opening at both ends, so you will not be entirely enclosed, and you can see out of it.
- Making sounds: During the scan, the machine will make various loud tapping or knocking sounds. Earplugs or headphones are required, and music may be provided to help reduce the noise and help you feel more comfortable.
- Communication: You will be in touch with the Radiographer through an intercom system. They will guide you and let you know what is happening throughout the procedure.
- Relax and breathe: The MRI will take images of your body's internal structures. It is important to try to stay calm, relaxed and breathe normally to avoid blurring the images.
- Completion: Once the MRI is complete, the Radiographer will help you out of the machine. In some cases, more images might be needed but this will be explained to you if required.
How long does an MRI take?
The whole procedure usually takes around 15 to 90 minutes. This will vary depending on the number of body parts you are having scanned.
How/when will I receive my results?
Your results will be verified by a Radiologist and sent to your referring healthcare professional within a week of your appointment. Times may vary for specialist examinations, so we recommend checking with the hospital team before you leave. Your referrer may recommend a follow-up appointment to discuss your results.
How much does an MRI cost?
Click here to navigate to the guide prices of scans at your chosen Nuffield Health hospital. Please note that we are only able to provide a guide price until your referral has been reviewed by one of our radiography professionals.
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