Your doctor says you need an MRI. You’re not thrilled about it, but you really do want to get a diagnosis and move on with your life. Also, you think it would be cool to see inside your own body. Before you show up, read through the five most important things to know about getting an MRI.
Here, in no particular order, are the five most important things to know before your MRI.
1. It’s loud and a bit cramped in there
An MRI can be a life-saving test, but it’s not exactly comfortable. You should know this now, so there are no surprises when you climb into the scanner. The magnet makes loud, clanking noises, and you need to lie inside a long, narrow-ish tube. You’ll get earplugs to lower the noise, but there’s no easy fix for the tight quarters. Most people can tolerate it long enough to complete their scan. But if you suffer from severe claustrophobia and feel anxious just looking at the above picture, you have two options.
First, you can take a low-dose sedative before your scan (usually Ativan). Your doctor can write a prescription. Make sure someone can drive you home after your test.
Alternatively, you can visit a center with open MRI. The pictures are often not as sharp as those produced by a conventional MRI, but they’re better than nothing. Some newer open MRI scanners produce comparable pictures to regular scanners.
2. There’s no radiation whatsoever
Perhaps you’ve heard about the radiation associated with some medical scans. The exposure is small from each individual test, but it can add up with repeat scans.Good news! You don’t have to worry about any of that, because MRIs don’t use radiation.
3. You can (and should) shop around
Perhaps you had a rich uncle. Perhaps you like making it rain. If not, you should realize there is a lot of variability when it comes to the cost of an MRI, and you can save lots of money with just a few minutes of effort. Like, a whole lot.
You can call around to different centers in your area, but we believe that Medmo offers the easiest and best solution. Just enter the amount you can afford, and you’ll get connected with an imaging center that can take your price. Presto.
4. Any metal could be a serious problem
The scanner magnet is extremely strong and always on. Any loose metal objects will be ripped from your pockets and sent flying into the scanner. Therefore, you’ll need to store your belongings in a locker outside of the scanner room. If you have a pacemaker, metal clip, or other medical device inside your body, provide the radiologists with as many details as possible so they can determine if it’s MRI-compatible. If your body contains any metal shards, shrapnel, or BB’s, you may not be able to get an MRI at all. Finally, lots of makeup contains metal that can interfere with the images. So skip the smokey eye on the day of your scan.
5. The contrast is safe unless you’re allergic or have kidney disease
MRI contrast (formally known as gadolinium) is an intravenous substance that “lights up” on scans and helps doctors better distinguish between normal and abnormal tissues. The above pictures shows a brain scan without contrast (left) and with contrast (right). Although the non-contrast image isn’t normal, the contrast image shows the problem (the bright white spot) much better.
If your test requires contrast, a nurse will place an IV beforehand and inject the contrast while pictures are being taken.
The contrast is only a problem if you have severe kidney disease or have had a prior allergic reaction to gadolinium. The contrast is NOT a problem if you are allergic to CT contrast, are allergic to shellfish, or have mild or moderate kidney disease. (Unlike CT contrast, MRI contrast poses no risk to the kidneys, but it can cause severe complications in people who already have severe kidney disease.)
To book a scan, visit us at Medmo.com. Medmo helps people schedule radiology imaging tests – such as MRI, CT scans, PET, and more – at nearby accredited centers and identify the payment solution that works best for them.