Your First MRI: A Comprehensive Step-by-Step Guide

An MRI is a painless and risk-free imaging test that gives doctors valuable insight into internal issues. It requires patients to lie down inside the large tube-like machine, which uses a powerful magnet and radio waves to create images of the body.

Before you undergo an MRI, there are several things to know about the procedure. These include:


Before your MRI, you will need to wear loose-fitting clothing without any metal zippers or buttons. You will also need to remove any jewelry, glasses or other accessories and will be asked to change into a hospital gown. You may be given ear plugs or headphones to block out noise from the MRI machine during your scan, and we will provide you with a buzzer which you can press at any time you feel uncomfortable or anxious so you can get our attention.

In order for the MRI to take clear pictures, it is important that you lie very still and relax. Any movement of your head or back will blur and degrade the quality of the pictures, and you may be required to hold your breath for a short period of time during some sequences. We will let you know ahead of time how long the MRI is expected to take, and we will be in constant communication with you during the entire procedure. If you are uncomfortable at any time, simply press the buzzer to notify us of your discomfort and we will stop the scan immediately.

Once you have removed all of the necessary items and changed into a hospital gown, our MRI technologist will position you on a table that slides into the scanner. For your safety, we will place a plastic cradle or pillow around your head. For some MRI sequences, we will place a frame on the body part being scanned. This is very common, and it can help create better images.

The MRI machine makes a loud banging noise during the scanning process, and we will provide you with earplugs or headphones if you wish to block out the sound. We will be in contact with you at all times, and the radiologist will be able to speak with you through an intercom system throughout the scan.

Once the MRI is complete, we will give you a call with the results, and your doctor will discuss these with you in more detail. If you have been given a contrast dye, it is very important to tell us right away if you notice any signs of irritation or other symptoms, as this could indicate that the contrast dye is not working correctly.

Preparing for the Scan

You’ll likely be asked to arrive at the scanning centre at least half an hour before your appointment. This allows time to fill out the necessary forms. It’s a good idea to bring something to read or do as you wait, since staring at the clock and waiting can only make you more anxious.

If you are claustrophobic, it’s important to tell the staff. They can help you with coping strategies or even sedate you for the scan, depending on your condition. It’s also worth talking about your condition with the doctor who ordered the MRI so that they can advise you of what to expect and how to prepare for the test.

For most scans, including a Biomed Scan, you will be asked to remove all metal objects including jewellery, watches, keys and credit cards. These are left in a secure clothing locker outside the scan room. You will be given a gown to wear and may be asked to take off any clothing that has buttons or zips. You will be positioned on the scanning bed and a helmet-like device called a head coil may be placed around your head. This is used to detect any signals that may interfere with the scanned images. It is very important that you lie very still during the MRI, as movement can blur or distort the pictures. You will be able to hear clicking noises throughout the procedure and it’s normal for the area being scanned to feel warm.

The radiographer is always on hand to talk to you throughout the process. This is important because they need to know what is happening inside your body so that they can produce the best results. The radiographer will then send the results to your doctor, who can discuss them with you and explain what they mean.

The MRI scanner is safe for all ages and most conditions, but it is important to let the radiology department know if you have a pacemaker or any other metal implants, are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a bullet wound or kidney problems. You should also let the radiographer know if you have skin tattoos or a metallic implant in your body as these can affect the quality of the images.

During the Scan

MRI scans do not hurt and are safe for most people. However, if you suffer from claustrophobia or are anxious in enclosed spaces, your doctor can prescribe sedative medication before the exam. You will need someone to drive you home if you take a sedative before your scan, and you should rest until the effects wear off.

You will be asked to remove any metal objects, such as keys, jewellery and wristwatches before you enter the scanner. You will be given a buzzer to hold, and you can press this at any time to alert the radiographer who is monitoring you from another room. This will allow them to stop the scan and attend to you as soon as possible if necessary. You will be provided with earplugs or headphones, and music can be played through them to help make the experience more comfortable. The earplugs or headphones are also to protect your ears from the noise made by the equipment. You will need to lie very still, and if you move too much it could blur or distort the images. The area being scanned may feel warm, and you will need to let the radiographer know if it is uncomfortable.

During the scan, you will hear clicking and knocking sounds for several minutes at a time. These are the sounds of the machine working. The scan can last up to an hour. Depending on your condition, the radiographer may insert a small tube into your mouth or nose so they can access a certain part of your body. If the MRI scan is being used for surgical planning, the radiographer will place small markers called fiducials on your skin that look like lifesavers and assist surgeons during image-guided surgery.

The radiographer will send a report to your referring doctor or health care provider. Your referring doctor is the most appropriate person to explain what the results mean and how they relate to your symptoms. They will also explain what treatment options are available to you. Your referring doctor can provide a copy of your MRI scan to you via your patient portal or directly to you.