MRIs are among modern medicine’s most advanced tools. With an MRI, we can detect everything from tumors to joint problems, and the images we gather from your scan can be the driving force behind your treatment plan.
However, if you’ve never had an MRI scan before, you may feel overwhelmed by what to expect — you aren’t alone.
Though MRI has been around for decades, many of our patients still have questions about the process. So, our team at Somers Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine Group is here to highlight a few need-to-know facts about what to do before, during, and after your upcoming MRI scan.
What is an MRI?
A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is an advanced imaging study. It gives us incredibly detailed images of what’s happening inside your soft tissue (any part of your body that’s not bone).
Instead of radiation, MRIs use magnets, radio impulses, and advanced computer technology to generate images of the inside of your body.
Sometimes, we administer a liquid contrast solution through an IV to brighten certain areas of your body and help us more easily distinguish any potential structures and changes. Tell us if you have kidney disease because the contrast solution may aggravate your condition — the same goes for if you’re pregnant. In either case, we can use an alternative method if a contrast solution is necessary.
Typically, we use MRI during the diagnosing phase of your treatment, but it can also help us to monitor your current health conditions. Some of the most common conditions we can detect and track with an MRI include:
- Tendon injuries
- Muscle injuries
- Ligament injuries
- Disc herniation
- Disc degeneration
- Joint deterioration from arthritis
- Cartilage damage
MRIs can also help us keep tabs on your progress after an injury or surgery.
Do I have to do anything to prepare?
Typically, you don’t have to do much to prepare for your MRI. When you arrive, your MRI technician reviews your medical conditions and history and conducts a safety screening to address any issues or last-minute questions.
Let us know about any implants or foreign bodies you might have, such as pacemakers, artificial heart valves, cochlear implants, joint implants, and/or retained metal.
We ask you to remove any jewelry, including your prescription eyewear. Tattoos are usually MRI-friendly, but let us know just in case.
If you’ve had an MRI in the past and had an allergic reaction to the contrast solution, we may prescribe a medication to reduce your risk of having another reaction.
One of the concerns our patients voice most often is claustrophobia. MRIs require you to be in a small, confined space during your scan, which makes many of our patients nervous. Talk to us about your concerns, and we may prescribe a sedative to help you stay relaxed.
What’s the process like?
Once you’ve talked with our technician, you change into a hospital gown and lie on a firm table that slides into the center of the donut-shaped cylindrical magnet.
We can give you a pair of earplugs or noise-canceling headphones, which can soften the buzzing, clicking, and squeaking sounds. The headphones also allow us to communicate instructions to you.
Other than the noises from the machine, some patients report feeling a warm sensation, but that’s very rare.
All you need to do is relax and lie still for the duration of your scan. Remember that MRIs are safe and very low risk, and our team has years of experience walking folks like you through it all from start to finish.
What happens when it’s over?
If we give you a contrast solution, we’ll monitor you for a few minutes after your scan to make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction. Otherwise, you can leave the office and return to your routine. Because we perform MRIs on-site, our team can access and review your images much faster than an off-site imaging facility.
Have more questions about your MRI scan? We’d love to talk you through them. Call our friendly staff, or use our online booking tool to get in touch with an MRI expert.