How to Prepare for an MRI

How to prepare for an MRI

An MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) uses powerful radio and magnetic waves to take detailed images of the body, read on a computer. The MRI can be used to diagnose health issues or gauge how well a person responds to treatment. MRI’s don’t have the damaging effects of radiation and can be used on any part of the body. Doctors may recommend an MRI when dealing with soft tissue and nervous system injuries, infections, or conditions. If your doctor has booked you or recommended one, adequate preparation paves the way for a successful procedure.

Why is an MRI important?

An MRI can detect

  • Spinal cord injury
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Blood vessel problems
  • Eye problems
  • Stroke
  • Inner ear problems
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Blocked blood vessels
  • Bone infections
  • Joint damage
  • Spinal discs issues
  • Neck and back nervous problems

MRI’s can also be used to check the health of specific organs like the breasts, kidneys, lungs, ovaries, uterus, prostate, pancreas, and liver.

Get a Suitable Radiology

Usually, your doctor will suggest or refer you to suitable radiographers who will carry out the MRI. When the service isn’t available in the same facility as the consultation, you may want to find out about their services. But make sure they are professional, reputable, and have dependable radiography equipment. However, a respectable doctor will ensure the radiography center can perform quality MRI scans and has professional dealings. When a tumor is detected in the brain, have had a stroke or brain infection, a functional MRI (fMRI) is used to analyze brain activity.

What the Radiographer Needs to Know

Your doctor or the radiographer may want to know if you qualify to have an MRI. If you are pregnant, you may not have the test during the first trimester unless necessary. It might interfere with the baby’s organs’ growth, which occurs during the first trimester. However, there is no conclusive evidence to back this claim. It’s also not advisable to get contrast dye when pregnant. Make sure to let the doctor know if you’ve had an allergic reaction to contrast dye in the past or have kidney disease.

If you have certain metals in your body, you may not qualify for an MRI, and if you do, special care may be needed to ensure the devices function well during and after the procedure. The metals include pacemakers, cardiac defibrillators, metal coils in blood vessels, cochlear implants, and clips that treat blood aneurysms. Metal devices cannot be allowed in the radiography room because the MRI machine’s magnetic waves can attract metal. Here is a list of other metals that shouldn’t get into an MRI room unless necessary.

  • Earrings
  • Artificial Heart pumps
  • Cochlear implants
  • Metals on the teeth such as fillings
  • and braces
  • Insulin and drug pumps
  • Metal limbs and joints
  • Pins and screws

Also, if you have tattoos, let your doctor know because some inks contain metals

It’s essential to get the information on what you should and shouldn’t do on the day you have the MRI. If you suspect you are pregnant, have a pregnancy test first before the MRI test date. The doctor may request for a kidney test before the scan if there is suspected kidney disease.

If it is your first MRI, you may be anxious and even afraid. An MRI is a painless process that takes 20 to 90 minutes. The duration depends on the size and location of the area to be scanned. Talk to your doctor about your fears, concerns, and ask any questions you may have. A diagnostic MRI can cause fear of the outcome. Let your doctor know about it and talk to loved ones. Get as much support and encouragement as you can. If possible, bring a loved one along for moral support.

Can You Eat or Drink on Test Day?

You can eat, drink, and take your medications as usual unless the doctor advises otherwise. In some cases, you may have to stay for up to 4 hours before the scan without eating or drinking, while in other cases, you may be asked to drink a lot of water just before the test. There is nothing to worry about because the doctor lets you know what you should or shouldn’t do before the scan. The instructions on whether to eat or drink mostly depend on the testing area.

What Happens on Scan Day?

You are expected to arrive early enough to fill out a questionnaire form and sign a consent form that says you have permitted the test to be carried out. Usually, an MRI is a scheduled procedure, so make sure to keep time. The questionnaire form details your current health status and overall medical history. On this day, make sure not to put on clothes that have metal attachments; leave the earrings, necklaces behind. Before entering the MRI room, you may be asked to remove your clothes and put on an appropriate gown. This depends on the area in your body to be scanned. Additionally, you will have to leave your belongings, such as phones, wallet, and bag, in a separate room or a safe locker before entering the scan room.

Can You Put on Deodorant on the Scan Day?

Some deodorants contain metals, and because you may not know which don’t, it’s best if you don’t put on deodorant before the scan. However, you can carry one and put it on after the MRI. Also, don’t use perfumes, lotions, and body sprays before the scan. Metals found in some cosmetic products can interfere with the magnetic waves of the MRI equipment. However, talk to your doctor about it before the test. He may advise you to avoid applying the products to the specific areas being scanned.

What do They Make You Drink Before an MRI?

As mentioned earlier, you may be requested not to drink or eat anything for up to four hours before the test. Other times, your doctor may ask you to drink a lot of water just before the MRI. It all depends on the area being scanned. However, a day before, you should take in enough fluids to keep your body hydrated and reduce the contrast fluid’s effects. On the scan day, an hour before the test, you may be asked to drink one liter of volumen, which dilates the abdomen contents for better visualization. You may be given a contrast fluid during the scan, which accentuates the internal organs’ structure for better viewing. Contrast dye may leave a metallic taste in your mouth, and although there is no conclusion that it can harm the fetus, it shouldn’t be used in the first trimester. Contrast dye causes nephrogenic sclerosis fibrosis in patients suffering from severe kidney diseases. You cannot use the fluid if you suffer from severe kidney diseases.

Having an MRI when you have Claustrophobia

If you are claustrophobic, don’t keep it to yourself. Let your doctor know in advance and make sure you understand every detail of the test. The more prepared you are, the less likely you will be afraid. If the radiographer permits, listen to relaxing music. You can also close your eyes, meditate, or cover yourself with a blanket to help relax. However, the doctor can give you medications to relax and make you sleep during the exam. Another option is to use open MRI equipment, but the images on some open MRI equipment are not as good as those from closed machines.

When everything is in order, the radiographer will ask you to lie flat on a table that will slide into the MRI machine, but you will be strapped to the device to keep you in place during the scan. All or part of your body might be inside the machine, depending on the areas to be scanned. You will hear loud thumping sounds, but there is nothing to worry about. Ask for earplugs if the noise disturbs you. Your body may also twitch during the scan, which is a normal reaction to the machine’s magnetic waves. The scan may take between 20 and 90 minutes.

What Happens After the Scan?

If you had any medication to help you relax before the scan, you’d be transferred to another room and stay until fully awake. Make sure you have someone to drive you home when you wake up because you may still be fuzzy after waking up. If you were fully awake during the test, the radiographer might refer you back to your doctor, where you will have the scan’s results interpreted.  The radiographer cannot reveal to you any findings of the scan. He transfers the results to an experienced radiologist who interprets and summarizes the findings then sends the summary to your doctor. The process can take a few days, but your doctor will keep in touch with you and schedule an appropriate time when you can go through the results together and decide on the way forward.

An MRI doesn’t have any side effects meaning that you can go back to work or carry on with your obligations after the scan, but only if you didn’t have any sedatives before the test.