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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)


Below is a list of some frequently asked questions, but please feel free to contact us if you need additional information. We are always pleased to assist you.

What is a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) exam?

MRI is a diagnostic test that depicts both soft tissue and bone. MRI depicts soft tissue injury and abnormalities with greater sensitivity and specificity than conventional imaging techniques. Mercy Medical Center has expertise in high-resolution Magnetic Resonance imaging. Our new state-of-the-art equipment is smaller and faster than the magnets that are a few years old.

Why has my doctor ordered an MRI exam?

Most people want to know why they are having symptoms of a physical problem. Your doctor has ordered an MRI to make, confirm, or exclude a diagnosis, with treatment of your condition as the goal.

Who performs the MRI exam?

Your exam will be performed by a technologist who has years of training in specialized magnetic resonance imaging, under the direction of an attending radiologist. The attending radiologist, who specializes and has advanced training in MRI imaging, will protocol the examination in the area of interest and interpret your examination.

Who interprets the MRI exam?

A radiologist is a doctor specializing in all imaging modalities including MRI, ultrasound, nuclear medicine and CT. Radiologists specialize in the imaging and diagnosis of disease. Interpretation of a radiograph MRI, CT, ultrasound or nuclear medicine examination requires expertise in pattern recognition and in the identification of potential artifacts that may otherwise be mistaken for pathology. Radiologists are trained in the variable sensitivity and specificity of each imaging technique, and in the potential for hazards related to the examination that could cause harm and must be avoided. All of the radiologists at Mercy Medical Center are board certified by the American Board of Radiology .

How is an MRI performed?

You will lie on a table within a high-strength external magnet. During the examination, you will hear a loud banging which is the electrical gradients that drive the machine.

What should I do to prepare for an MRI exam?

Preparing for an MRI exam is easy. Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, you may take your medications as usual. There are no food or drink restrictions either. The only unusual preparation for an MRI scan is that all removable metallic objects must be left outside the scanning room. These include:

  • Jewelry
  • Keys
  • Watches
  • Coins
  • Eyeglasses
  • Removable hearing aids
  • Dentures and other prosthetic devices

Credit cards should not be brought anywhere near the MRI magnet. Since they are magnetically coded, the MRI’s magnet, which is very powerful, can easily corrupt the information stored on them.

Persons with severe claustrophobia may consider taking a sedative with their doctor's approval. If you are pregnant in your first trimester, an MRI examination is not recommended, and you should obtain the approval of your obstetrician.

What are the risks?

MRI is one of the safest diagnostic exams available. Unlike x-rays and Computerized Tomography (CT), MRI does not use radiation. However, if you wear a pacemaker or have certain body (e.g., ear) implants, you should not have an MRI examination. You will fill out a questionnaire prior to the MRI to ensure your absolute safety.

What are the alternatives?

Alternatives tests include CT (a specialized cross sectional x-ray imaging modality), bone scanning (an excellent modality when a generalized skeletal survey or screening is indicated), and ultrasound (a non-invasive examination which uses sound instead of ionizing radiation to evaluate soft tissues.)

What can I expect after the MRI examination?

There are no after-effects of an MRI examination. Following an MRI examination, you will be able to immediately resume your pre-examination activities.

What happens with the results?

The radiologist will generate a written report, which will be available to your physician on the same day of the MRI exam. The resulting report is sent to your referring physician and will become part of the permanent record. Your physician will review the MRI test results with you and can integrate the results of your MRI test with the findings on your physical examination and laboratory tests.

Copies of the report can be obtained through your referring physician's office. The radiographs are the property of the institution, as are biopsy slides or blood samples. Copies of the radiographs can be obtained by contacting the file room. There is a charge for obtaining film copies and mailing them to your physician.

Will other tests be ordered?

Additional tests to assess your problem may be ordered before of after the MRI at the discretion of your doctor.