Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic imaging technique that combines a powerful magnetic field with computer technology to produce exquisitely detailed images of your body’s soft tissue (organs, muscles, fat). Because certain atoms in our cells respond, or resonate, slightly in the presence of magnetic fields, MRI is able to use that response to create an amazingly clear, detailed computer representation of internal organs, muscles, connective tissue, and the central nervous system. Using cross-sectional imaging of the body along multiple planes (like slices of bread), the clarity of these images is far greater than is available with conventional CT scans, X-rays, or even myelograms, allowing your physician to make an earlier and more accurate diagnosis. MRI is noninvasive (except in cases where contrast agents are injected).

No. MRI doesn’t expose patients to radioactive materials, X-ray, or any form of ionizing radiation. To the best of our knowledge, MRI produces no harmful side effects.

Most MRIs require little advance preparation, but a few things can help assure your comfort and safety in the MRI environment. At your appointment, our staff will advise if changing into a gown is necessary.

  • Dress in comfortable clothing without metal zippers or buttons.
  • Wear sport bras without underwires.
  • When possible, leave jewelry and other valuables at home.
  • Remove any patch medications or any external mechanical devices, or let us know if you’ve been medically instructed not to.

Although an MRI is completely safe and painless, some people should not undergo an MRI, or will need to make special arrangements. Any of the following conditions may interfere with your MRI. Please call us immediately if you are scheduled for an MRI and:

  • Have a cardiac pacemaker
  • Have a prosthetic heart valve
  • Have a surgical clip, bone or joint replacement, or any metallic implant
  • Have ever held a job in a metal-working industry or have been exposed to metallic dust or splinters
  • Have suffered a shrapnel wound
  • Have any metallic chips or splinters in the eye
  • Are pregnant, or think you might be
  • Weigh more than 300 pounds
  • Suffer from claustrophobia

Please plan on arriving 20 minutes before your scheduled appointment time. Before your scan, a Shields patient advocate will greet you, obtain your insurance information, and answer any questions you may have.

An MRI technologist will then discuss the procedure and confirm you have no metal implants or other conditions that could interfere with the scan. After that, you’ll recline comfortably on a cushioned table and your exam will begin. You will be in constant communication with your technologist throughout the entire exam. 

Depending on what information your doctor needs, your MRI scan may require the use of an intravenously injected contrast, which will assist in visualizing certain structures in your body. If prescribed, this contrast will be administered by a specially trained Shields technologist.

As the MRI scanner calibrates to obtain each series of images, you will hear persistent buzzing and thumping noises, but at no time will you experience any physical discomfort. You may wear earplugs or listen to music during your exam if you wish. To hear what an MRI machine sounds like, click below.

LISTEN TO AN MRI MACHINE

While the images are being recorded, it’s very important to lie still and follow the technologist’s simple instructions. The images obtained from your MRI are very sensitive to motion. Even the slightest movement can distort the image and limit its diagnostic value.

Most MRI exams last 20 to 40 minutes, although compound studies last up to an hour. After your MRI, you may return home or to work.

After you leave, your images are interpreted by a radiologist, a doctor who specializes in reading MRI. Within the next few days, the radiologist will contact your physician with the results of your study. Your physician will then contact you to discuss your results and, if necessary, prescribe treatment. Your physician is the only person authorized to discuss your MRI results with you.

An MR arthrogram begins with the application of a local anesthetic to the area being scanned. A radiologist then injects the affected area with a small amount of contrast agent under the guidance of X-ray. Then, you will proceed to the MR room for imaging of the joint. During the scan, you may relax and listen to music while more images are being taken. Following the test, the images will be reviewed and prepared for interpretation by our radiologists. The results are then forwarded to the referring physician, who will be responsible for discussing the results with you.

Although an MRI is completely safe and painless, some people should not undergo an MRI, or will need to make special arrangements. Any of the following conditions may interfere with your MRI. Please call us immediately if you are scheduled for an MRI and:

  • Have a cardiac pacemaker
  • Have a prosthetic heart valve
  • Have a surgical clip, bone or joint replacement, or any metallic implant
  • Have ever held a job in a metal-working industry or have been exposed to metallic dust or splinters
  • Have suffered a shrapnel wound
  • Have any metallic chips or splinters in the eye
  • Are pregnant, or think you might be
  • Weigh more than 300 pounds
  • Suffer from claustrophobia

MRI machines are known for being noisy. This is because of the force of its strong electromagnetic field on a coiled wire. The force on the coil causes it to expand slightly when in use, which makes a loud “thump.” When the MRI is creating an image, there is a rapid-fire clicking noise because the electric current is being switched on and off rapidly. To hear what an MRI machine sounds like, click below.

LISTEN TO AN MRI MACHINE

Claustrophobia is a serious condition that may prevent patients from having a medically necessary MRI scan. At Shields, our staff and our equipment help patients minimize their anxiety and complete their scans successfully.

If you are prone to claustrophobia or panic attacks, or are in any way concerned about how you could react during the scanning procedure, talk to your doctor about medication options and choosing the least confining MRI option for your scan, such as one of Shields’ high-field, open-bore MRI machines.

Many of our patients have struggled with claustrophobia and had a positive experience with a Shields’ technologist who eased their minds. Review patient testimonials here. Review patient testimonials here.

Open-Bore Technology: Throughout the Shields network, 17 locations offer high-field, open-bore MRI machines, including two advanced 3T open-bore MRIs. These machines have wide opening and a short bed, so, for scans below the chest, most patients can be scanned with their head out of the machine.

Patient Care: Our imaging technologists assist patients with claustrophobia every day and are specially trained to help keep patients relaxed. We provide:

  • Comfortable positioning with warm blankets and pillows (depending on scan type)
  • Ongoing communication with the technologist throughout the scan
  • Headphones with Sirius satellite radio and your choice of relaxing music
  • The option to have a family member or friend accompany you for support

An open-bore MRI machine is open on both ends and enclosed by a tube-like bore; it offers a wide opening of approximately two feet. A conventional MRI is also open on both ends but has a shorter bore opening. Many patients who fear small spaces look for an open option because they feel less enclosed. An open-bore option is available in a high-field, 1.5T strength, which is the gold standard in imaging today and allows patients to achieve a comfortable MRI experience without compromising image quality.

A “true-open” MRI is open on three sides. Shields does not offer these machines because they are not available in high-field, 1.5T strength, and therefore, image quality is lower. Shields recommends high-field, 1.5T open-bore MRIs for patients who have anxiety about tight spaces. These advanced MRI systems are available at 17 of our locations.

Find a Shields facility offering open-bore MRIs.

Your entire visit to Shields will take anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half. Please arrive 20 minutes before your scheduled appointment time so our friendly medical staff can obtain your insurance information, explain the exam, and answer any of your questions. Depending on what information your doctor needs, the scanning process will last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, after which you may return home or to work.

At Shields, MRI exams typically cost much less than they do at other facilities, particularly hospitals. Shields’ savings calculator can help you estimate the price of your scan based on scan type and your insurance plan.

Click here to visit the savings calculator and estimate your price.

An MRI is not appropriate for every condition or injury. Only your doctor can determine if an MRI is the right diagnostic tool for you, so talk to him or her directly. If your doctor recommends an MRI, you can request to have the exam done at a Shields MRI location, where you’ll find lower prices, advanced technology, and a caring, knowledgeable team. Your doctor will also need to receive authorization from your insurance plan on your behalf, prior to your appointment.

Ask for a referral to Shields MRI.