Inside the room you will begin to hear some of the noises of the MRI machine such as the cooling system and fans.
- You will be helped to lie down on a table that is connected to the scanner. The technologist will give you some form of hearing protection (ear plugs, headphones, etc.) and answer any last minute questions that may come to mind. At this point you may also ask for a blanket, eye covering, or pillows to make you more comfortable. Not all MRI tests will allow for these but most do. It's a long test and you want to be as comfortable as possible.
- The table will be raised up to the level of the scanner and a camera (or coil, as it is often called) will be placed over, under, or around the region of interest. This is the radio antenna that receives the signal from your body to make the picture. If it is uncomfortable let the tech know. They may be able to alter the position or make you more comfortable in some other way.
- At this point you should be given a call button to hold in your hand. You may use this to call the technologist if you become frightend or feel the need to end the test for any reason.
In the absence of a call button Be sure you know how to contact the technologist during the scan so that you can relax. You can be removed from the MRI scanner in less than 5 seconds should you ever feel the need. On a personal note: I would absolutely INSIST on having a call light or I would refuse to have the exam. This is not because I am claustrophobic but for safety reasons. Every MRI machine comes with one and if it has been disabled or lost the facility is operating outside of recommended safety guidelines.
- When everything is in place and you are ready the technologist will slide the table into the scanner to begin taking pictures. The opening is narrow and you may feel your arms touch the padding on the sides of the MRI machine. This is normal. The sides and the top of the MRI may look and feel very close to you. It is important to note that an MRI never closes and the open ends never shut. You will be monitored very closely at all times by one or more techonologists.
- Once you are in place the technologist will exit the scan room and close the door. This is to prevent radio signals from the outside interfering with your scan. The technologist will be in visual contact with you the entire time from the next room via a window the connects the two rooms. Most MRI scanners also have a microphone and speaker system for you to communicate with the technologist in between segments of the test. It is perfectly acceptable to ask the tech to talk with you between every scan if you wish.
- The test is broken down into several diffent scans of varying length, usually around 3 to 5 minutes each. The scans are very LOUD and rhythmic sounding. Each scan sounds somewhat different from all the others. They range in sound from a jackhammer, to loud buzzing, to high pitched sirens. Despite the intensity and variation of noise many patients fall asleep during the scan. (CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD SOME SAMPLE SOUNDS )
- During the test you will need to lay very still without changing your position. Most MRI's only take one measurement scan and every other scan is based on that one so any movement after that point will throw each successive scan further off and may result in a longer scan time. Also during the test you may become very warm due to the interaction of the radio waves with your body. It is normal to sweat during an MRI especially for people with a larger body frame. Most MRI's are equiped with a fan that can be turned off and on according to your preference, so let your tech know what you are feeling when they ask.
- Depending on your specific test you may also get an injection of contrast material called Gadolinium. The technologist will look for a vein in your arm or hand for this. On occasion an IV will be started prior to the exam. Note: It is not the same as CT contrast, and it is usually very safe for almost anyone with normal kidney function. It gives the doctors who read the test a lot more information to make a diagnosis.
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