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MRI FAQ's

How soon will I get the results?

Your doctor will usually have a report faxed within 24 hours. The official typed report is mailed within 24-48 hours.

What is contrast?

Some MRI studies require contrast which is a fluid injected through a vein that shows up as bright on an MRI image. It helps our radiologists identify and characterize certain diseases. Not all MRI studies require contrast; this decision is made by your doctor and our radiologists. MRI contrast does not interfere with other medicines. You will be able drive yourself home after receiving contrast.

What is the difference between an "open MRI" and a "closed MRI"?

A closed MRI is open at either end. The area of the body being imaged has to be at the center of the magnet. The open MRI has openings on nearly all sides, and is therefore well suited for claustrophobic patients. Closed magnets have more powerful magnetic field strengths which improves image quality. However, our open magnet is nearly equivalent to a closed magnet, and therefore has nearly equal image quality.

What is the difference between MRI and CT?

MRI uses a powerful magnetic field for imaging; a CT scanner uses x-rays. Both are powerful tools for imaging, and each images certain areas of the body better than the other. For example, MRI is better for imaging the knee, whereas CT is better imaging the lungs. The two are complimentary in many parts of the body. For example, it is not unusual for a CT of the liver to show an abnormality, and then have an MRI to help further characterize it.

Why can't they make it quieter? What makes the noise?

MRI scanners make loud banging noises while acquiring images. These noises are caused by something called gradients within the machine. These gradients are rapidly turned on and off which causes the noise. Unfortunately the noise cannot be turned down, but we offer all patients ear plugs which deaden the sound. Also, we have head phones for listening to music and, at some of our offices, even have video goggles for watching movies.

Are my fillings ok?

Dental fillings are safe in the magnet. On certain studies dental amalgam can cause artifacts that degrade image quality, but this rarely is significant.

How much radiation am I getting?

None. There is no ionizing radiation utilized in an MRI machine.

How long does an MRI study take?

Most studies are around thirty minutes. Some studies can take an hour.

If I have a pacemaker can I have an MRI?

NO. Pacemakers are not safe in the magnet. The powerful magnetic field can ruin the electronics in a pacemaker.

If I have a stent or an aneurysm clip, can I have an MRI?

Stents and aneurysm clips are safe in the magnet, but we generally ask patients to wait 3-4 weeks after placement before attempting an MRI. We also require a clearance letter from the physician that inserted the device, stating that it is safe.