MRI Scans

MRI (or magnetic resonance imaging) is one of the best ways to see inside your body without an operation. MRI does not use X-rays. A very large and powerful magnet causes radiowaves (energy) to bounce off the part of your body that the doctor wants to see. These radiowaves come back from the body and very clear pictures are made by a computer. The doctor will then carefully look at the pictures.

An illustration of a person lying in a MRI scanner.

What is MRCP?

MRCP (magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography) is a special type of MRI scan which mainly highlights the bile ducts and pancreatic ducts.

What You Should Know Before Your MRI Scan?

It is very important not to take anything metal into the MRI room which will be drawn into the magnet. For example, if you have bank or credit cards in your pocket the information can be erased. Do not wear clothes with metal buttons or pins. You must also remove hearing aids, dentures and jewelry, such as watches and rings. You will be asked to leave your wallet and keys outside the room.

Most importantly, be sure and tell the MRI technologist if you have a pacemaker attached to your heart, have surgical clips in your head from brain surgery or pieces of metal in your eyes or head from an injury. You must also inform the technologist if you are pregnant as you may not be able to have an MRI scan.

Tell the doctor or technologist if you become anxious and nervous (claustrophobic) when you are in a small or crowded place. Signs of claustrophobia include sweating, a faster heart beat, and even feeling faint.  If you require medicine to relax you for the MRI scan, there is always a chance you could have a reaction to the drug.

Lastly, please tell the technologist if you weigh 300 pounds or more.

How Do I Get Ready for My MRI Scan?

If you are claustrophic you might require intravenous (into a vein) medication for the MRI scan. You should not have anything to eat or drink for three to four hours before the test. It is also a good idea to try using the bathroom to urinate (pass your water) just before you are taken into the scanning room. You will then be asked to change into a hospital gown.

What Will Happen During My MRI?

You will be taken into the MRI scanning roomwhere you will notice the large tunnel-shaped scanner (magnet). The technologist will help you to lie down on a padded table. If you are cold, please ask for a sheet or blanket. It is important that you are comfortable because you will be required to lie very still during the scan.

The table will slowly move into the tunnel portion of the scanner until it is over the part of your body to be scanned. Even though the tunnel looks narrow, it is large enough to lie inside. The magnet will not touch or hurt you. Expect to hear loud sounds such as thumping, knocking, beeping and clicking which come from the magnet. These sounds are normal. You must lie very still for about one hour. Movement can cause the pictures to be blurred. Some straps may be placed over you to remind you to hold still.

Sometimes the doctor will decide to give you an intravenous (IV) injection which shows even more information. This injection is not like the usual "X-ray dye" and is very safe. Although you are in the room by yourself, you are never alone. The technologist is behind a window watching and listening to see if you have any questions or needs.

What Will Happen After My MRI Scan?

Once the scan is finished you will be moved out of the tunnel and helped down from the table. You may feel dizzy when you first sit up. Feel free to sit on the table for a few minutes until the dizziness goes away.

Our doctors will review the pictures of your MRI scan and the results will be sent to your own doctor. If you have no other appointments that day, you are free to leave. You should have no delayed problems.

Risks and Complications:

MRI is considered safer than some studies since no X-rays are used. The only risks come from metal objects which you bring into the scanning room.