What are MRI and MRA?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic test that promotes early detection of developing diseases and abnormalities. Doctors employ this non-invasive technique to see inside the human body in great detail without potentially harmful x-rays.

MRI uses a safe but powerful magnet, radio waves (the same kind that transmits FM music) and a computer system. The result - clear pictures of your joints, brain or spine.

Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) is a type of MRI. It provides detailed images of blood vessels without the use of catheters or surgery. Like MRI, MRA is safe and painless.

A contrast agent called gadolinium is used for some MRA exams to make blood vessels more clearly visible.

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What are the benefits of having an MRI/MRA performed?

MRI is often a complementary procedure to other diagnostic exams, such as x-ray, PET/CT exams or nuclear medicine. MRI test results can provide insightful information that would not otherwise be seen to the naked eye. As a result, MRI can serve as an early detector of developing diseases and abnormalities.

MRA can detect problems with the blood vessels that may be causing reduced blood flow. With MRA, both the blood flow and the condition of the blood vessel walls can be seen.

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How should I prepare for an MRI/MRA exam?

Please review our preparation guide before your exam. Contact us if you have further MRI FAQs.

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Can I bring my own music?

Yes, you can bring your favorite CD (no iPods or MP3 players). Our staff will play your CD through our stereo system, so you can listen to your own music through our MRI-safe headphones during the exam.

If you don't want to bring a CD, you can select one of our radio stations or choose from our in-house CD list.

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What if I am claustrophobic?

By understanding the MRI procedure, many claustrophobic patients find that their fears can be minimized.

Inform your referring physician and our staff in advance if you have ever experienced claustrophobia. If necessary, medication can be prescribed before your appointment. Please note that medication is not available on-site. Also, if you receive medication, bring someone with you who can drive you home, because it may not be safe to drive yourself.

When you arrive for the exam, discuss your claustrophobia with your MRI technologist. He or she can provide music and/or an eye mask to help reduce your anxiety. The technologist will work with you and take time to make you as comfortable as possible.

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What is the weight limit for your equipment?

Factors such as a patient's body weight, body habitus and scan type may determine whether or not the scan can be performed. The weight limit for our MRI equipment is 550 pounds.

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What should I expect during the exam?

Your scan will be performed by a radiological technologist under the supervision of a radiologist (a medical doctor - M.D. - who specializes in diagnosing disease and injury by interpreting medical imaging techniques).

Upon arriving for your appointment, you'll be greeted by our front office staff and asked to complete a set of screening forms. (You can also complete the screening paperwork now.) After being escorted to your dressing room, the technologist will review your screening questionnaire, inform you about the exam, and answer any MRA or MRI FAQs you have concerning your scan.

Once in the exam room, the technologist will ask you to lie down on a cushioned table, which will automatically move into the MRI magnet after you have been comfortably positioned. The magnet has a short bore and is open on both ends. Your technologist will stay in contact with you throughout the exam via an intercom system and monitor you through a glass window. If you do not choose music to listen to with the headphones, the technologist will offer you ear plugs to reduce the noise level coming from the MRI.

When the MRI exam begins, you will hear a muffled thumping sound that will last for several minutes. (This is when the scanner takes its pictures.) You may also feel a slight vibration, which is normal. Just relax - even take a nap - but you must lie as still as possible since any movement can distort the image.

Other than sound and a slight vibration, you should experience no other sensation during scanning. When scanning is complete, the technologist will return to help you off the table.

For Exams Ordered with Contrast:

For certain studies, the injection of a contrast agent called gadolinium may be necessary to help better visualize the area being examined. (Unlike contrast agents used in other radiology studies, gadolinium does not contain iodine and therefore rarely causes allergic reactions or side effects. But please tell the technologist if you have ever experienced an allergic reaction to MRI contrast in the past.) Prior to the injection, the technologist will review the contrast process and answer any questions you have concerning the injection.

If you are having contrast, here is what to expect: An IV will be started on you for the contrast. You will then be positioned in the MRI. The first exam should take approximately 20 minutes. The contrast is administered, and then the scan will resume another 9 minutes. Following the contrast exam, you will receive instructions to drink plenty of fluids for the rest of the day and an informational sheet to follow if you experience an allergic reaction.

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How long will the scan take?

The average MRI exam takes 20 to 60 minutes, depending on the type of scan your doctor ordered. It is important that you stay as still as possible during the exam. Any movement may cause the technologist to restart sequences to get better images for the radiologist to read. This will cause your time in the MRI to increase, prolonging the length of your exam.

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What should I expect after the exam?

Once your scan is complete, you may resume normal activities and diet. If you had a contrast injection, the technologist will review the post-contrast instruction sheet and phone numbers in case you experience any discomfort or a delayed reaction to the gadolinium.

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How do I find out the results?

Your referring physician will receive the results through a written radiology report and will contact you to discuss the findings. For stat cases, our radiologist will contact your physician via phone and provide a verbal report.

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