What is MRI?
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is considered a safe and painless diagnostic imaging tool that allows us to generate exquisite images of the inside of your body, using nothing more than a strong magnetic field and radio waves. These radio waves are picked up by receiving “cameras” placed over or around the body part we are scanning. Most appointment times are kept to 30 minutes, but you will normally spend no more than 20 minutes with the scanner.
Is MRI Safe?
MRI is a totally safe method of generating fine anatomical images of the soft tissues within your body. Unlike CT and X-rays, MRI uses no ionising radiation, instead it uses the naturally abundant hydrogen atoms already within you, which are ever so slightly magnetised and made to resonate with radio waves; hence the name Magnetic Resonance Imaging. It is considered to be one of the safest forms of medical imaging, and can be used on almost everyone, including, if required, very young and even pregnant patients. Additionally, to ensure your complete safety, every person that enters the magnet room is screened for any items that may not be allowed.
What if I am Pregnant?
During the first trimester of a pregnancy, we usually refrain from carrying out MRI scans simply because we believe it is better to err on the side of caution, especially if there will be no clinical outcome from the results until after you have given birth. However, we will of course carry out your scan, and have done so on many patients, if it is deemed medically necessary or urgent. Please do not hesitate to discuss this with an MRI Radiographer or our Radiologist before your scan.
Will I need an injection?
Occasionally, we might have to inject an MRI specific contrast, or dye, into a vein; this will be to enhance our images and provide additional information. The dye is normally injected into a small vein, usually in the crook of your elbow or the back of your hand, and only requires about 5ml to enhance our images. The product we use, called Gadovist®, has been tested for many years, and has been shown to be safe as long as you don’t have reduced kidney function. For this reason, if you are over 60 or have any previously noted kidney or liver issues, we will require a blood test first. As with any medications, there is always a very small chance of an allergic reaction to the contrast injection. Any adverse media you read regarding Gadolinium products in MRI studies relates to older linear bound products, not the macrocyclic bound products we use such as Gadovist®. Please call us if you have any concerns.
Before Your Appointment
A booking is required for all MRI scans. You will need to have a request form with you or sent by your GP/Specialist, and we will require you to fill out and sign both sides of our MRI Safety Questionnaire. This is to ensure that you are perfectly safe to go into the MRI scanner, as some items, such as; Pacemakers, Implanted Defibrillators, Neurostimulators, vascular pumps, cerebral aneurysm clips and Programmable CSF shunts are considered to be unsafe to enter our scanning area. Even newer devices such as MRI safe Pacemakers, will still need to be scanned in a hospital setting in Perth where qualified pacemaker technicians can put the device into a safe mode before scanning.
When you have filled in and returned your safety form, you will be given your appointment date and time. This is the time you will be expected to start your scan, so please allow at least 15 minutes prior to this for the additional steps outlined below.
Preparation for your MRI
The majority of MRI scans do not require any special preparation, but some advanced planning might make your visit simpler. You can eat and drink normally before your scan. However, if we are scanning your abdomen, you will need to refrain from food and water for four hours before your appointment time.
In order to make your MRI as simple as possible, on the day of your examination, please do not wear excessive jewellery, as it will need to be removed before entering the MRI room. This often causes significant delays in your appointment and those following you. Please try and wear loose clothing without metal clips and zips, and stretch fit non underwired bras.
If you are having an MRI of your head, we would ask you not to wear eye makeup, due to the inclusion of metallic fragments.
If you suffer from claustrophobia or have great difficulty in lying flat, please call us directly to discuss your options, most people’s fears or concerns can be allayed by speaking to a trained MRI Radiographer.
Your appointment and what to expect
The specifics of your appointment will vary greatly depending upon what body part is being scanned and why. However, the general process will be along the following lines:
- You will need to register your arrival with our reception team where they will check your Medicare details
- You will be collected from the main waiting room by one of our MRI Radiographers and taken to the MRI Suite
- Your Radiographer will verify your details to ensure they are correct, and will proceed to go through each line of the safety form, please allow them the courtesy of checking through the list, it is imperative for your own and their protection.
- You will be asked to remove all jewellery (including medic alert bracelets) and body piercings
- If your clothing is not appropriate for the MRI scanner you will be asked to get changed into a set of our disposable two-piece hospital scrubs
- If you are not required to get changed, you will be asked to remove from your person anything which is deemed unsafe for the MRI scanner. This will include items such as keys, credit cards, watches, wallets, coins, belts, bobby pins, shoes, badges, and mobile phones
- Mobile phones will need to be either switched off or placed into flight mode, this is due to the MRI being able to detect very small radio wave signals, which can cause artefacts on your images.
- You will be shown into the scanning room where your procedure will be explained
- You will be lying down on the MRI table whilst a series of coils are placed around the area to be imaged
- You will be given a small buzzer, which can be used to alert your Radiographer to any problems you may experience during your scan
- Due to the inherent noise that MRI machines make, you will be given a set of headphones, or occasionally earplugs, to protect your hearing. Whilst you are in the scanner, we will use these headphones to communicate with you when the scanner is not making its noise, and for playing you any choice of music you may have
- You will be instructed to lie very still for the whole duration, and it is important to ensure that you do not tense your muscles, the key to getting good images is relaxation. If you do move during the scans, your pictures will most likely come out blurred, and whole sections of your scan will need to be repeated. If you adjust your position, it is also likely that when the final pictures are computed, you will not be in the same position as when we planned, this may mean we could have missed the exact area we are attempted to image
- During the scan, you will hear a variety of different noises of differing volumes coming from the scanner which you will also feel as vibrations.
- These MRI sequences usually take about 3-4 minutes each and we may be required to take 6-8 different versions of these sequences. Between each set there will be a small pause before the next one starts, if you need to get the radiographers attention, during the gap is the ideal time
- During the duration of your scan, your Radiographer will have you in constant view and will be in contact throughout your scan
- When your MRI scan is finished, you will be able to get changed, collect your belongings and report back to the main reception area. There are no longer any films or CDs to be collected as your referring doctor will be able to view your report and images electronically.
- If you have a specialist who resides in Perth, please ensure that we are aware before you leave to ensure that they may access your images and report.
When will my results be available?
Your MRI scan will generate many images, sometimes running into many hundreds. These images are all assessed by one of our Radiologists before your report is written. Over 99% of all Geraldton Radiology’s reports are completed on the same day as your scan, and many are finished within 1-2 hours with the results being returned to your referring clinician at the same time.
Who performs the MRI?
All MRIs are performed by registered Medical Imaging Technologists (Radiographers). A Radiographer is a specialist technologist who is registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
Examinations such as X-ray, CT, and MRI are all performed by Radiographers.
At Geraldton Radiology, we often have student radiographers, or registered radiographers who are training in new areas. In the event that a student/trainee performs your examination, they will be supervised either directly or indirectly by a senior Radiographer.