Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

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If your doctor tells you that an MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, is needed, you might feel nervous. But really, this imaging technique is one of the best ways doctors have to get clear, detailed images. This helps your doctor get the right diagnosis to help you get the treatment you need.

Getting an MRI at UVA Health 

Your doctor may give you specific instructions about eating or drinking before the test. It’s important to follow these directions to get the best possible images.


With or Without Contrast 

For some conditions, your doctor may request the MRI be done with contrast. If so, contrast dye will be injected through a small needle into your hand or arm. You’ll be closely monitored for any possible reaction to the contrast.

Once you’re ready, you’ll lay down on a table. You’ll need to stay still through the entire scan.
After the scan, the doctor will ask you to stay while they quickly look at the scan. They want to make sure that everything turned out alright and they got the views needed.

Who Shouldn’t Get an MRI?

MRIs are very safe, with some exceptions. If you have any medical devices, joint replacements, or metal objects in your body, then you may not be a good candidate for an MRI. This includes:

  • Pacemakers
  • Neurostimulator
  • Ear implant
  • Metal fragments
  • Insulin pump 
  • Metal plates, screws, or pins
  • Joint replacement
  • Metal clips (like from an aneurysm repair)
  • Bullets


Why Do I Need an MRI? 


MRIs are useful for many conditions. They can help show if a cancer treatment is working. They also are a good way to look at soft tissue injuries, like those in the spine or joints. 
MRIs are even used for screening for conditions like breast cancer. 

Learn about breast cancer screening with breast MRI.

What If I Have Fillings/Braces?


Fillings and braces are usually fine during MRIs. The biggest problem these items create is artifacts (blurriness) on the MRI.

What If I’m Pregnant?

If you’re pregnant, talk to your doctor in advance. There are many studies showing that there are no proven harmful effects of MRI on your baby. But it’s still something you and your doctor should discuss.
Unlike X-rays or CT scans, MRIs don’t use any radiation. But the contrast dye does cross the placenta, meaning it could affect your baby.
You can find out more about medical imaging and pregnancy here.


What If I’m Claustrophobic or Anxious?


If you’re feeling a lot of anxiety and aren’t sure you’ll be able to stay still, talk to your doctor. Often, it is necessary to use a sedative, which your doctor can prescribe.
If you decide to take a sedative, you’ll need someone to drive you home from your appointment.


What Should I Bring with Me?


You may want to bring ear plugs. The MRI machine makes a knocking sound that some find distressing.
A friend or family member can stay with you if you need.
You should bring a form of picture ID (driver’s license is fine) and an insurance card if you have one.


What Shouldn’t I Bring with Me?


You’ll need to remove all medical objects, including jewelry, hearing aids, or eye glasses. You’ll also need to remove medication skin patches.
 


What Happens Next?


After the MRI, your doctor will contact you about next steps. You’ll also be able to see your images in MyChart