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Frequently Asked Questions

What does an MRI scan show?

An MRI scan can be used to examine the brain for:-

  • tumours
  • multiple sclerosis
  • changes that have occurred after bleeding in the brain
  • to discover if the brain tissue has suffered a lack of oxygen after a stroke

Examining the heart and large blood vessels in the surrounding tissue make it possible to detect:-

  • heart defects that have been developing since birth
  • changes in the thickness of the muscles around the heart following a heart attack

An MRI scan may be used to examine:-

  • the spinal chord
  • joints
  • the soft tissue parts of the body such as the liver, kidneys and spleen
  • female pelvic problems
  • ailments of the gastro-intestinal tract
  • certain ear, nose and throat problems
  • musculoskeletal problems

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How long does the MRI scan take?

The scan takes about 25-40 minutes.

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Are there any risks from the examination?

For most people, there is no danger associated with having an MRI scan.  It is, however, very important, that you tell the radiologist if you have any metal implants in your body.  The radiographer will therefore ask for your complete medical history and whether you have any of the following:

  • pacemakers
  • implanted insulin pumps
  • aneurysm clips
  • vascular coils and filters
  • heart valves
  • ear implants
  • surgical staples and wires
  • shrapnel
  • bone or joint replacements
  • metal plates, rods, pins or screws
  • contraceptive diaphragms or coils
  • penile implants
  • permanent dentures

It is also important to tell a member of the staff if you are pregnant or if you believe there is a possibility you are pregnant.

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Who analyses the images?

A radiologist, who has been trained in MRI scan analysis, reviews the results of your MRI scan.  The results cannot be given to you on the day because the analysis takes a relatively long time and can include a comparison with any previous MRI scans.

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Do I really have to keep still?

It is important that you remain still during your MRI scan as any movement causes the pictures to blur.  This then makes it difficult for the radiologist to interpret the scan results. In addition, the MRI scan is often focused on a specific part of the body. If you move, the area that is being examined may no longer be in the correct position.

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What is the difference between an MRI and a CT scan?

Both MRI and CT scans provide detailed pictures of areas of the body that used to be inaccessible by conventional x-rays. They use a sophisticated computer system to make cross-sectional pictures of areas of the body being scanned.  The major difference between CT and MRI, is that an MRI uses a large magnet and radio waves to produce images, whereas a CT scanner uses x-rays. There is, therefore, no exposure to x-rays in an MRI scan.

Because MRI scanning is very sensitive to movement during the scanning procedure, CT scanning can be preferable in some circumstances if the patient is unable to stay still.

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Why do you need my previous x-rays, CT and MRI scans?

The more information that our radiologist has when he/she reviews the results of your MRI scan, the more specific the interpretation will be. Correlations with other MRI scan results are helpful.

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What if I am claustrophobic?

As there is little room inside the tunnel, people who suffer from severe claustrophobia sometimes have problems with MRI scans. Please do let the radiographers know if this might be a problem, before the day of your appointment.  If necessary, you can have a tablet or injection to calm you down before the scan.   However, if you need a sedative, it needs to be organised in advance, so please telephone the health clinic in advance if you think you’ll need a sedative.  In addition, you will need to arrange for someone to drive you to and from the health clinic.

If your radiographer knows you are nervous, he/she will take extra care in making sure you are comfortable during your MRI scan He/she will be able to see you at all times through a large window and will also be able to talk to you and listen to you through an intercom system.  You will be able to communicate with the radiographer by pressing the button of the intercom system.

Keeping your eyes closed throughout the scan can sometimes help.

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How should I dress for the examination?

It is recommended that you dress in light cotton clothing which does not contain metal such as zippers, metal buttons etc. You will be offered a cotton robe which you can wear for the examination if you arrive with inappropriate clothing.

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May I bring a friend or relative with me?

Yes and in special circumstances we can allow your friend or relative to accompany you into the MRI Scanning room. Also, if you need a sedative, you will need someone to take you home after the MRI scan.

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Do I need to be referred by my doctor?

No. If you are covered by private health insurance you can book your own private MRI scan.

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