As a leading MRI center, Smart Scan is committed to providing our patients with not only top-notch diagnostic services, but also valuable information about the MRI process. We know that undergoing an MRI exam can be a bit intimidating and overwhelming, especially for first-timers.
That's why we've compiled a list of frequently asked questions to help ease any concerns and provide you with all the information you need to know before your MRI scan.
Whether you've just scheduled your first scan or you're a seasoned MRI veteran, here are some common questions and answers that may be helpful for you:
What is an MRI, Exactly?
Short for magnetic resonance imaging, MRI is a kind of imaging technology that uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create detailed images of the body's internal structures. In simple terms, an MRI machine is kind of like a large, high-tech camera that takes incredibly clear pictures of your body's internal structures.
MRI exams are non-invasive and painless, and they are commonly used to diagnose a variety of medical conditions. They are particularly useful for imaging soft tissues and organs like the brain, spinal cord, muscles, and heart, which makes them invaluable for detecting diseases such as cancer, heart diseases, neurological disorders, and more.
The images from MRI exams are analyzed by expert radiologists who interpret the images to make a diagnosis. Having an MRI exam can be a crucial step towards getting the right treatment for many conditions.
What Should I Expect During an MRI?
During an MRI at Smart Scan, you can expect the following steps:
- Preparation: After checking in, you will be asked to remove any metal objects such as jewelry, hairpins, glasses, and anything in your pockets as these can interfere with the MRI machine. You may also need to change into a patient gown and scrubs.
- Entering the MRI Room: Next, you will be escorted to the MRI room. The MRI machine is a large, cylindrical device with a movable examination table. You will be instructed to lie down on this table and we’ll help you get comfortable.
- Starting the Scan: Once you're positioned correctly, the table will slide into the machine. Your MRI technologist will leave the room but will be able to communicate with you through an intercom system.
- During the Scan: As the MRI starts, you will hear loud knocking or buzzing sounds. This is completely normal—it's just the machine creating images. You will be given earplugs or headphones to help with the noise. The procedure is painless and you get to choose your own music to listen to on the headphones.
- Duration: Most MRI scans last between 15-30 minutes, but could last longer depending on the area being scanned and the number of images required. Scan times are getting shorter and shorter as MRI technology improves.
It's important to stay as still as possible during the scan to ensure clear images are captured, but you actually only have to stay still for 2-4 minute intervals. If you feel uncomfortable or anxious at any point, you will be able to let our team know at any time, even while the scan is going. At Smart Scan, our goal is to make your experience as comfortable and stress-free as possible.
How Should I Prepare for an MRI?
The first step is always to be open about your medical history with your provider. That means disclosing any surgeries, implants, or conditions you may have. Additionally, it's important to follow any specific instructions given by your referring doctor or our MRI technologists. These may include avoiding certain foods or medications before the scan.
As you prepare for your scan, be sure to dress comfortably in clothes free of metal objects such as zippers, hooks, and underwires, as they can interfere with the MRI machine. As mentioned, you may be asked to change into a gown and scrubs for the procedure. Also, if you have a pacemaker, artificial heart valve, cochlear implant, or other implants, make sure to inform your doctor beforehand. In some cases, additional precautions may need to be taken.
Lastly, don't hesitate to ask any questions or voice any concerns you may have before the scan. Our team is always happy to help!
Can I Have an MRI Scan if I'm Claustrophobic?
If you're claustrophobic, undergoing an MRI exam might seem especially daunting. MRI claustrophobia is more common than you might think, as many individuals experience discomfort or anxiety in confined spaces, particularly during an MRI procedure.
Fortunately, the MRI machines we use at our Smart Scan offices are specifically designed with patient comfort in mind. We use wide-bore MRI machines which offer more space than traditional models, and as much space in front of your face as lower-quality open MRI scanners, alleviating feelings of being in a confined space and making the MRI procedure more relaxing. The room is also designed to feel open and calming, minimizing the chance of an anxiety attack or panic attack during the scan.
To further ensure your comfort, we offer the option for a friend or family member to accompany you during your MRI tests. Their presence can provide reassurance and make the experience less stressful. Additionally, we provide headphones to help distract you. If necessary, mild sedation can also be discussed with your doctor beforehand.
We understand how challenging claustrophobia can be, and our team is committed to making the MRI process as comfortable as possible for all our patients. If you have any concerns about the confined space or any other aspect of the MRI procedure, don't hesitate to discuss them with our team before your scan.
What Happens if I Move During the Scan?
Moving during an MRI scan can significantly distort the images produced. This is because the MRI machine works by capturing multiple images over a period of time, and any movement can blur these images and make it difficult for doctors to interpret them accurately.
At Smart Scan, our team takes several steps to ensure our patients' comfort and reduce movement. Our technicians will help you find a comfortable position before the scan starts, and provide cushions or supports if necessary. We also understand that staying still for a relatively long period can be challenging, so if you need a break at any point, let our team know via the intercom system, and we'll pause the scan.
To help you stay relaxed and still, consider employing relaxation techniques, like deep breathing or visualization exercises. Focusing on your breath or imagining a calming scene can help you stay calm and still during the scan. And remember, our team is always available if you need anything during the procedure.
Learn More About MRIs at Smart Scan
In short, MRI scans are a comprehensive, non-invasive, and vital diagnostic tool. Whether you have an MRI coming up or know someone who does, we hope this guide has provided valuable information about what to expect and how to prepare for the procedure.
At Smart Scan, our team of skilled professionals is dedicated to providing patients with the highest quality care and ensuring a delightful experience. If you have any further questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to reach out. We're here to support you every step of the way!