What Happens When You Have An MRI Imaging Test

An MRI is a common imaging test your doctor may order to help diagnose your medical condition, assess an injury, or track the results of a treatment. If you've never had an MRI before, you might be wondering what to expect. Here's an overview of what may happen when you have your MRI test.

Remove All Metal Before The Test

You'll be instructed to leave all unnecessary belongings at home and not take anything metal into the exam room. You'll probably change into a hospital gown to make sure there is no metal on your clothing when you take the test. No metal is allowed because the MRI machine has a powerful magnet in it. The magnet is instrumental in creating images of the inside of your body unlike an x-ray that uses radiation.

Because of the magnet used in imaging, you should also tell your doctor or the technician in advance if you have a metal medical implant or metal fragments in your body. If you have certain medical devices implanted, you might have to avoid taking an MRI.

What An MRI Machine Is Like

An MRI machine is a long tube that's encircled by the chamber that houses the magnet and other components. If you have severe claustrophobia, you may have to take an open MRI so you aren't in an enclosed space. However, in some situations, the open MRI may not provide the best results or an open MRI might not be available in your area. In that case, the doctor may sedate you for relaxation before the test begins.

You'll stretch out on a table that slides into the MRI chamber. Your entire body might be in the chamber depending on the area of your body that's being scanned. The area to be scanned is positioned in the middle of the MRI. You might have straps on your legs and body to help hold you still since you can't move around during the test. You might be given headphones for relaxation and to drown out the noises of the machine when it turns on. There is a light and fan inside the machine so you stay comfortable throughout the long test. You can also communicate with the technician through an intercom and a call light, so you're not alone

How An MRI Machine Works

While you are motionless on the table, the magnet creates a magnetic field around you. The magnet turns on and off throughout the test. The fluctuating magnetic field is able to create digital images of the inside of your body with the help of a computer program. The images of your organs and vessels are clear and detailed. This is why MRI imaging is often a better diagnostic tool than an x-ray when it comes to examining organs and tissues.