MRI scan


What is a MRI scan?

An MRI scan provides detailed information about the insides of our bodies. Unlike CT scans it does not use X-ray beams. Images are produced by comparing how much water is in different internal structures. The machine contains a large magnet which helps to produce the images. The staff on the day go through a checklist with patients so that all jewellery is removed and any metal work inside the body is known about eg pacemaker, surgical clips or hip replacements. MRI scans are very useful at looking at the brain, muscles and bones. They provide different pictures to a CT scan, with some parts of the body best looked at with an MRI, and some with a CT scan.


What does the machine look like?

The machine has a tunnel, at no point does the machine come into contact with the patient. It is necessary for the part of the body being looked at to enter the tunnel. The machine can be a little noisy so headphones are provided to block this out. The headphones also enable the staff to talk to you throughout the scan.


How long does it take?

The scan takes between 15-45 minutes depending on how much of the body is being scanned. When the images are being taken patients are required to lie still, there are plenty of breaks in between images being take.

Sometimes contrast is used to highlight certain parts of the body. This is injected into a vein just before the images are taken.


When will I get the results?

Once the scan is finished it is then looked at by an X-ray doctor called a radiologist. These doctors specialise at looking at scans. They look at the pictures and write a report. This process takes a few days to complete.


Further information

MRI scanning at NHS choices



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Written by: Dr T Rider

Editor: Dr J Newman

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