Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI for short, is a medical imaging technique that uses a magnetic field and computer-generated radio waves to create detailed, 3-dimensional images of the organs and tissues in your body.
This can sound intimidating, but don’t worry – it’s not as bad as it seems! Simply put, MRI machines are large, tube-shaped magnets that will produce 3D images for your doctors and radiologists to review. So, if your doctor has just recommended that you get an MRI, here’s what you can expect before, during, and after your imaging:
Before an MRI
On the day of the MRI, you won’t have to do much to prepare. The only real precaution the Radiologist or tech will give to you is to not wear any metal (because it will be drawn to the magnets in the MRI). You will also need to let them know if you have any implanted metal in your body form previous surgeries or foreign bodies.
Your Radiologist or tech will let you know if there are any other special instructions you’ll need to follow – like refraining from eating about an hour or two before the test.
Age is not a limiting factor for an MRI, however, patients will need to be able to #1 lay still for 30 minutes or more, and #2 not have any significant issues with claustrophobia (fear of closed spaces), as you will be in a small tube for the study.
During an MRI
Once you arrive on the day of your procedure, you will be asked to change into a hospital gown and to remove all jewelry, earrings, piercings, or other metal objects. Your Radiologist or tech will help you lie on a moveable examination table that slides into the center of the magnet tube. The body part being tested may be kept in place with a cradle or straps to hold it very still. Your Radiologist or tech will sit behind a window during the MRI scan; however, your caregiver will be able to see, hear, and speak with you at all times.
You must lie very still during the scan. If you move, the MRI scan pictures may not be clear, which may make it harder to give an appropriate diagnosis. Your primary care physician or Orthopedic Surgeon may order you a mild sedative if you are claustrophobic, have a hard time staying still, or have chronic pain. You will hear very loud banging noises during the series of scans. The noise is caused by the magnets moving. You will be given earplugs or earmuffs to help soften the noise of the MRI machine, and typically offer music or TV to take your mind off of what is going on around you.
After an MRI
After your MRI, there’s really nothing special you’ll need to do. You’ll simply change back into your regular clothes, grab your things, and go about your day (unless you received any sedatives before your MRI, in which case you may need a driver).
Otherwise, you’ll just need to wait to hear from your doctor or Orthopedic Surgeon about your test results. This might feel as anxiety-provoking as getting the MRI itself, which is why it’s a good idea to ask how long it’ll take for you hear back, along with potential next steps you can expect based on their findings so you’re prepared for all outcomes.
However, if you are looking for quick results and would like to discuss the MRI findings with a highly-skilled and sub-specialized Orthopedic Surgeon to help determine what the best next course of action for your pain or injury may be, please register for an orthopedic telemedicine visit at MoonlightOrtho.com.