MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, a type of scan that produces a detailed picture of the tissue and organs inside of your body, using strong magnetic fields and radio waves. An MRI scan is a safe and painless diagnostic tool and is used by doctors to help figure out what is causing your illness or pain.
MRI scans are used to examine all areas of the body; our most common scans are:
- Musculoskeletal scans (bones and joints)
- Brain and spine scans
- Abdominal scans
- MRCP (Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography) to scan the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, pancreas and pancreatic duct
- Prostate scans
- Female pelvic scans
We have specialist radiologists to undertake certain scans including Neuro-radiologists and Urogenitary radiologists.
Why do I Need an MRI Scan?
An MRI scan is an accurate technique to detect and diagnose disease throughout the body, typically following other methods that failed to provide enough information to confirm a diagnosis.
Uses of an MRI scanner include but are not limited to:
- Brain and spinal cord abnormalities
- Tumours and cysts
- Breast cancer screening
- Irregularities or injuries of the joints
- Specific heart problems
- Liver and abdominal organ diseases
- Assessment of pelvic discomfort in women (fibrosis and endometriosis)
- Evaluation for infertility
An MRI scan provides precise information about the structure of the joints, soft tissue and bones in the body and important information on the organs and glands within the abdomen. In many cases, surgery can be postponed or more accurately directed following the results of the MRI scan.
During an MRI Scan
Before having an MRI scan, you should tell your doctor if you have metal in your body (such as a pacemaker, metal implants or chips) or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. The strong magnets used throughout the scan may affect any metal implants in your body. An MRI scan is not usually recommended for pregnant women (although it is thought to be generally safe in later pregnancy); however, having metal in your body does not always mean you cannot have an MRI, but it is important for your doctor carrying out your scan to be aware of it.
Is Anaesthetic Necessary?
An MRI scan is a painless procedure so anaesthetic is not usually necessary. If you suffer from claustrophobia, you can request a sedative to help you relax (ask your doctor whether this is an option for you prior to your scan appointment). If it has been decided that a sedative is to be used during the scan, you will need to arrange for transport home, as you will not be able to drive for 24 hours following the procedure.
MRI images are quite detailed, and can detect miniscule changes of structures within the body so it is crucial to remain still during the scan in order to produce the clearest pictures possible. Young children may be offered general anaesthetic prior to their MRI scan, as they are often unable to stay still throughout the process.
The Scanning Process
Before undertaking the scan, the radiographer will take some information from you and ask you to lie on a bed that will be moved into the scanner. Depending on what area of your body is being scanned, you will be asked to lie either head first or feet first in the scanner. A computer operates the MRI scanner located in an adjacent room where the radiographer can see the scans and speak to you through an intercom system. The MRI scanner can make loud, repetitive clicking noises that may last for several minutes during the procedure, this is perfectly normal and you will be given headphones to help cancel it out.
In some cases, contrast dye is injected, making tissues and blood vessels show in greater detail, increasing the accuracy of the images.
The length of time the scan will take depends on the part of the body being scanned. Generally, scans take anywhere between 15-90 minutes to perform.
Following an MRI Scan
It is rare that you will experience side effects and complications caused by the MRI scan and you will generally be able to resume your normal daily activities immediately (providing you did not receive a sedative).
In some cases, the contrast dye may cause reactions such as:
- Headaches and dizziness
- Pain or burning at the point of injection
- Sickness (feeling nauseous or physically being sick)
- Allergic reaction (hives or itchy eyes)
These reactions are typically mild and do not last very long.
After the scan, the radiologist will examine the images to check whether they are clear enough; you may be required to undergo a second scan straight away if they are not. However, if the radiologist is satisfied, you can go home.
You may be asked to make a follow up appointment with your doctor to discuss the results after the scan. Results are usually available with 48 hours with a copy forwarded to your GP.
You can use your private medical insurance or pay for your MRI Scans treatment. We offer competitive, fixed price packages as well as the ability to spread your cost with the option of 0% finance. If you are using your health insurance, please contact your insurer first for approval and let them know you’d like to be treated at either the One Ashford Hospital or One Hatfield Hospital.
Why One Healthcare
- Modern purpose-built hospital opened in March 2016 (Ashford) December 2017 (Hatfield)
- Fast access to diagnostics including MRI, X-ray and Ultrasound
- Private, spacious, en-suite rooms
- Specialist Physiotherapy and nursing teams
- Little or no waiting time
- ‘Ultra clean air’ theatres
- Freshly prepared food
- Calm, dignified experience