Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses a very powerful magnetic field to take images in any direction throughout the body.
A patient lies down on a table within the MRI scanner and will go into the machine either head or feet first, depending on what part of the body is being scanned.
A special piece of equipment called a coil is placed around the body part being examined. This acts like an antenna to pick up signal. The body part being scanned needs to be in the middle of the scanner. MRI is excellent for looking at soft tissues in the body and is especially good at imaging the brain and joints such as the knee.
The MRI process is extremely noisy so all patients and visitors will be given earphones or earplugs to wear throughout the scan. Scans can range in time from 5 to around 45 minutes depending on what type of examination your doctor has requested. You may also need a small injection of some contrast medium which helps to distinguish different tissues within the body.
Because of the strong magnetic field some patients with certain types of implants may not safely be scanned in MRI, such as patients with a pacemaker.
All patients are asked to fill out a safety questionnaire in advance – this questionnaire will be sent out with the patient’s appointment letter. A radiographer will check through the responses to this questionnaire before the patient enters the MRI department.
Once the scan is complete, a radiologist will make a written report which will be sent to doctor who referred the patient for the scan.