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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the newest, and perhaps most versatile, medical imaging technology available. Doctors receive highly refined images of the body's interior without surgery, using MRI. 

Strong magnets and pulses of radio waves are used to manipulate the natural magnetic properties in the body. This technique makes better images of organs and soft tissues than those of other scanning technologies and doesn't require radiation. 

MRI is particularly useful for imaging the brain and spine, as well as the soft tissues of joints and the interior structure of bones. The entire body is visible to the technique, which poses few known health risks. The imaging is painless. The high field MRI surrounds the body like a hoop.

The latest addition to MRI technology is magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), which was developed to study blood flow (see description of MRA below).


The use of a magnetic field presents some limitation. Before making a MRI exam appointment, let your doctor know about any of the following:

  • Pacemaker, defibrillator
  • If you are or may be pregnant 
  • Brain aneurysm clips 
  • Surgeries, especially of the brain, eye or ear 
  • A gun wound or similar injury (shrapnel) 
  • Inner ear implant 
  • Metal plate, pin or other metallic implant 
  • Permanent (tattooed) eye liner 
  • Intrauterine device such as a copper-7 IUD 
  • Ever been a metal worker (had metal in your eye, etc.) 
  • Insulin pump or other infusion pump
  • Latex allergies or sensitivity 
  • You are claustrophobic 
  • Wear a medication patch (for example: pain, nicotine, hormone, etc.)

Patient experience

An imaging procedure typically lasts 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the type of information requested by your physician. For the best quality image, you need to be as still as possible during the exam. Just relax, make yourself comfortable and breathe normally. 

In some cases, you may be given a contrast agent which enhances the MRI image. We use only safe, FDA-approved contrast agents. 

Your exam will be performed by a registered radiologic technologist. You will not feel anything. You will hear a drumming sound as the machine does its work and you will be able to hear a technologist throughout the exam. 

During a child's exam, a parent may be in the room. When the exam is over, the technologist will assist you from the table and out of the room.

Patient preparation

You must have with you:

  • previous x-rays if requested by your doctor's office 
  • complete insurance information including your insurance card 

For an abdominal or pelvic MRI:

For some MRI exams, you may be asked to refrain from eating or drinking three hours prior to your exam. Instructions will be given at time of scheduling.

The majority of MRI exams require no special preparation.

  • Eat normally and continue to take any medication prescribed by your doctor unless you have been given other instructions. 
  • Wear comfortable clothes without metal fasteners such as zippers, buckles, or snaps. 
  • You will be asked to leave all items containing metal, and cards with magnetic strips such as credit cards, outside the room. 
  • You may be asked to remove dentures. 
  • For most MRI exams, feel free to bring your favorite audio tape or CD to listen to during the test. 


Your MRI images will be interpreted by a board certified radiologist and the findings will be given to your physician. Your physician will contact you to share and discuss the results.

Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA)

MRA is a safe and accurate method of acquiring detailed images of the vascular system (your blood circulatory system). MRA technique is used to image the arteries of the brain, carotid arteries, the aortic arch, the abdominal aorta, renal arteries and vessels of the extremities.

Patient preparation
You should arrive 15 minutes prior to your scheduled exam.

For renal MRA and abdominal MRA:
Usually no restriction on eating or drinking. If restrictions apply to your exam, instructions will be given at time of scheduling.

For carotid or brain MRA:
You have no restrictions on eating or drinking.

Patient experience
You may be asked to remove your clothing and put on a patient gown and robe. The technologist will tell you what to expect during the procedure. You will be asked to lie on the MRI table where you will be moved into position for the study. A small needle may be placed into a vein, depending on type of MRI exam. The technologist will be outside of the room but immediately available at all times. You will hear the drumming sound of the MRI scanner while the imaging data is being taken. The examination will take approximately 30 to 60 minutes to complete.

Post exam
Your MRI images will be interpreted by a board certified radiologist and the findings will be given to your doctors. Please follow up with your doctor for results.