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  6. What Patients Should Know Before Having an MRI Exam
  1. MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

What Patients Should Know Before Having an MRI Exam

Before your MRI exam, you will likely be asked to fill out a screening questionnaire. The International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM) has a sample patient screening form disclaimer icon available on its website. For your safety, answering the questionnaire accurately is extremely important. In particular, make sure you notify the MRI technologist or radiologist if you have any implanted medical devices, such as stents, knee or hip replacements, pacemakers, or drug pumps. Also be sure to tell the technologist if you have any tattoos or drug patches as these can cause skin irritation or burns during the exam. The medical team will need to make sure that these devices can safely enter the MR environment.

Some devices are MR Safe or MR Conditional, meaning that they can be safely used in the MR environment under specific conditions. If you have an implant card for your device, bring it with you to your MRI exam so that you can help the doctor or the MRI technologist identify what type of device you have.

The space where you will lay in an MRI scanner to have your images taken can be a tight fit for some people, especially larger individuals. If you believe that you will feel claustrophobic, tell the MRI technologist or your doctor.

The MRI scanner will make a lot of noise as it takes images. This is normal. You should be offered earplugs and/or headphones to make the noise sound less loud. You may also be able to listen to music through the headphones to make the MRI exam more enjoyable.

If your exam includes a contrast agent, the MRI technologist will place a small intravenous (IV) line in one of your arms. You may feel some coldness when the contrast agent is injected. Be sure to notify the technologist if you feel any pain or discomfort.

Remember, your doctor has referred you to have an MRI because he or she believes the scan will provide useful information. If you have any questions about your procedure, don’t be afraid to ask.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • “What information will the MRI scan provide? How might this change my treatment options?”
  • “Is there any reason why I shouldn’t have an MRI scan?” (If you have any implanted devices (such as a pacemaker, stents, an insulin pump, or an artificial joint), be sure your doctor knows about them.)
  • “Will my exam involve contrast agent? What additional information will using the contrast agent provide?”

Questions to ask the MRI technologist

  • “How long can I expect my scan to last?”
  • “Can I listen to music during my MRI scan? Can I choose the music?”
  • “Where is the call button I can use to let you know if there is a problem?”
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