What to Expect and How to Prepare for Your MRI Scan
So, your doctor ordered an MRI scan. You may be wondering, how do MRI scans work? Is an MRI machine safe?
An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) uses a large magnet and radio waves to look at organs and structures in your body. It is a painless process in which you lie on a table that then slides into a tunnel-like machine. The MRI technician may offer you earplugs or headphones with music, as the scan can be noisy and may last 15-90 minutes. MRI scans are useful for diagnosing a variety of conditions, as well as getting a better look at the spinal cord and brain. Prior to your scan, you will likely be asked to fill out a screening questionnaire, like this sample form.
Things to tell your doctor before your MRI scan
Tell your doctor if you:
Have any kind of metal, electronic devices or implanted medical devices in your body (bullet or shrapnel injuries, pacemakers, stents, drug pumps, artificial joints). If you have an implant card for your device, bring it to your scan to show the MRI technologist, the FDA recommends.
Have tattoos or drug patches.
Believe you may feel claustrophobic during your scan.
Questions to ask your doctor
The FDA suggests you ask your doctor:
“What information will the MRI scan provide? How might this change my treatment options?”
“Is there any reason why I shouldn’t have an MRI scan?” (If you have any implanted devices, such as a pacemaker, stents, an insulin pump or an artificial joint, be sure your doctor knows about them.)
“Will my exam involve a contrast agent? What additional information will using the contrast agent provide?” (A contrast agent is given through an IV in your arm, and it may feel cold. It shows up white on MRIs, making it easier to see the part of the body being studied.)
And ask the MRI technologist:
“How long can I expect my scan to last?”
“Can I listen to music during my MRI scan? Can I choose the music?”
“Where is the call button I can use to let you know if there is a problem?”
If you have any concerns about your medical diagnosis or treatment, consider enlisting the services of a patient advocate!
Joy Stephenson-Laws is founding and managing partner of Stephenson, Acquisto and Colman (SAC), the healthcare industry’s premier litigation firm. In this role, Ms. Stephenson-Laws leads a diverse team of over 100 professionals that includes attorneys, doctors, nurses, technology and healthcare provider operations specialists. This interdisciplinary approach to representing clients such as Stanford University Hospital, UCLA Medical Center and UC Irvine Medical Center has resulted in SAC’s recovering over $1 billion for its clients while consistently receiving high marks for client satisfaction for such innovations as SACLINK, a proprietary, interactive, paperless document management system.