Having your scan

This information tells you about having an MRI scan with us (following referral by your doctor) and aims to answer any questions you might have.

Please read this information carefully and if you have any questions or concerns then contact us on 01923 844953 between the hours of 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

What is an MRI scan?

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is a scanning technique which uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create images of tissues, organs and other structures inside your body. It is completely painless.

The images may be useful in diagnosing illness or in helping your doctor plan appropriate treatment for you.

The MRI scanner is a long, open-ended tube surrounded by a large circular magnet, and the couch is about 1.5 metres (5') long. You will need to be able to lie on your back on the scanning couch, which will move into the tube.

What are the risks of having an MRI scan?

MRI scans do not use X-rays, and there are no known risks or side effects associated with them.

MRI scans are not, however, suitable for everyone due to the magnetic field. An MRI safety checklist is used to ensure that you meet the necessary safety criteria.

Things we need to know before your scan

  • You have a pacemaker or a defibrillator
  • You have a programmable brain shunt
  • You have aneurysm clips
  • You have an internal surgical device that can be adjusted
  • You have a heart valve replacement
  • You have ever had metallic fragments in your eyes
  • You have a cochlear implant or stapedectomy
  • You are, or think you may be pregnant
  • You are breastfeeding
  • You have had previous scans that you have found hard to cope with or you are claustrophobic
  • You have any additional needs regarding disabilities or mobility
  • You need hospital transport
  • You need an interpreter
  • You weigh over 100 kg or 15 stone 10 pounds
  • You have any other medical appointments booked on the same day as this scan other than the ones that we have arranged for you
  • You need a chaperone

Preparing for your scan

Your appointment letter tells you how to prepare for your scan. Please read it carefully and follow the instructions.

Having an MRI scan is painless. However if you do need something to calm your nerves or reduce pain, please speak to your doctor in advance and follow their advice closely. If you’ve taken a sedative, you must bring someone with you to your appointment. Please remember our staff are unable to give sedatives or painkillers.

On the day

Unless asked to do otherwise, eat and drink as normal and please take your prescribed medicines.

Please bring a dressing gown or wear metal-free clothing, and bring your favourite music on CD, MP3 player, iPod® or your mobile phone.

You will be asked to remove all metal objects from your person. A locker is available to store personal items.

Feel free to bring a friend or helper with you, although they will have to wait in the waiting room during the scan.

Please report to the reception area at Paul Strickland Scanner Centre. We will ask you to fill out a questionnaire to make sure you’re safe to be scanned.

If you’re unable to attend, please phone us as soon as possible. We try to scan patients on time, although delays are possible due to unforeseen circumstances. The centre opens at 7.30am. If you have any questions before 9am please phone 01923 844978.

About your MRI scan

  • A member of staff will check your answers to the safety questionnaire with you
  • You will then be taken into the scanner room and asked to lie on the scanning couch, either head or feet first, dependent on the body part we are scanning. A receiving device called a coil, like an aerial, is placed around the part of the body being examined. This detects the signals emitted from your body. Once you are comfortable, all you need to do is relax and remain very still.
  • You will be given ear protection because the scanner makes loud rhythmic knocking and buzzing noises which change throughout the scan, and your music will be played through the headphones. You will also be given a contact buzzer which you can use to call for the radiographer at any time.
  • The scanner is operated from an adjoining room from which the radiographer can see you throughout the scan and talk to you through the two-way intercom.
  • During scans we may ask you to hold your breath repeatedly for short periods of time. This reduces blurring of the images.

Depending on the type of examination, your MRI scan may take between 15-60 minutes.

Will you need an injection?

In most cases this won’t be necessary. If you are having a scan of your abdomen (stomach) or pelvis (hip area) we may give you an injection into the muscle of the leg. This helps to slow down the natural movement of the bowel for the duration of the scan and improve the image quality.

Some of the examinations we do also require a small injection of contrast medium (dye) into the arm or hand, which contains gadolinium. This is given through a cannula (small tube) and is not radioactive. It helps the radiologist (the specialist doctor who looks at your scans) to tell the difference between blood vessels and other structures. This should not cause you any after-effects.

If you have a power port, we may be able to use this instead of a cannula. However the staff will need to see evidence of the ID card for the port to ensure that it is safe and appropriate for us to use.

The injections are given by either the radiographer or a doctor.

Are there any side effects?

It is very rare to react to the contrast injection. The most common side effects, if they occur, are feeling sick or vomiting, and this can occur soon after the injection. Please tell the radiographer if you experience any symptoms. If you experience any symptoms afterwards once you have left the hospital please contact either your GP or local Accident and Emergency department.

After the scan

Once the scan is complete you are free to leave as soon as you feel ready. You may eat and drink as normal following your scan.

Getting your results

Hospital specialists or oncologists will give you the results at your next outpatient appointment. You will not be told the results of your scan at the time of your appointment.

If you don’t have a follow-up appointment, the doctor or specialist will contact you when they have the results to make an appointment if necessary.

Where to get more information

Your feedback

We work hard to provide you with the best possible experience, combining high-quality patient service with clinical excellence and world-class technology.

We welcome any feedback which may help improve our service.

Travel and parking information