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What is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)?

MRI is an advanced diagnostics tool that uses a powerful magnet, low-intensity radio waves and computer technology to create detailed images of soft tissues, muscles, nerves and bones in your body.

How is the MRI performed?

The MRI machine is a large cylindrical structure similar to a tube that is open at both ends. You will be asked to lie on a table that slides into the tube. Your technician will conduct the test from an adjacent room, but you can speak to the technician through an intercom system during the entire test. If you need help, have questions or become uncomfortable, please let your technician know. You should remain as relaxed and as still as possible. You will hear a knocking sound from the MRI system that ranges from barely audible to moderately loud. These sounds are normal. The test will last one to two hours. When the test is completed, you can resume your activities.

How do I prepare for my MRI?

  • Please bring any medicines you routinely take during the day.
  • Wear something soft and comfortable. You may be asked to change into a gown.
  • You will be asked to remove any personal objects like jewelry, belts and the contents in your pockets. It is best to leave unnecessary items or valuables at home.

Are there any special concerns with an MRI?

  • If you have had previous back surgery, you may need a small injection of a contrast agent to help differentiate scar tissue from previous operations. This contrast is not like X-ray or computed tomography dye, and it does not contain iodine.
  • Please tell your physician if you know you are claustrophobic.
  • Notify your physician and MRI technician if you have any metal in your body such as a pacemaker, shrapnel, bone plates or pins, aneurysm clips, metal fragments in your eyes, an implanted spinal-cord stimulator or inner-ear implants. The MRI magnet is powerful, and it has radio waves. The presence of these implants may not allow you to have an MRI.