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 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 1.8 metres or six feet long—see picture on opposite page. 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 don’t use X-rays and there are no known risks or side effects associated with them.

MRI scans are not 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

Please tell us if any of the following apply to you:

  • 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 have had, or are having, any surgery in the 6 weeks before your appointment
  • You have any cosmetic enhancements (e.g. breast implants)
  • You are or think you may be pregnant, or you’re 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 feel 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

Please take your prescribed medicines as usual.

Your appointment letter tells you which of the following options apply to you:
Option 1: Eat and drink as normal.
Option 2: Avoid eating for two hours before your scan.
Option 3: Do not eat or drink for six hours before your scan.
Option 4: Do not eat or drink for six hours before your scan. For this test you will need to drink some fluid known as contrast medium 1 hour prior to the scan. This will be a white liquid containing barium. It is used to highlight your stomach and bowel on the scan images.

If the above instructions affect the way you take your medication, please ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice.
If you are diabetic, please ring us for advice if you are worried about any of these instructions.
Please bring a dressing gown or wear metal-free clothing, and bring your favourite music on CD, MP3 player, iPod® or your mobile phone.

Feel free to bring a friend or helper with you, although they will have to wait in the waiting room during the scan. Please don’t bring children with you.

Avoid bringing valuables along to your appointment, as we only have limited secure space to store them for you.

If you’re unable to attend, please phone us as soon as possible.

The centre opens at 7.30am. If you have any urgent questions before 9am please phone 01923 844978.

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. We try to scan patients on time, although delays are possible.

Having your MRI scan

  • You will be asked to remove all metal objects from your person, including any piercings. A locker is available for personal items.
  • A member of staff will go through a safety checklist with you.
  • You will then be taken into the scanner room and asked to lie on the scanning couch. Depending on the body part we are scanning you may go in head or feet first. We will put a receiver called a “coil” on the body part of you that we are scanning. This detects the signals emitted from your body. Once you are comfortable, all you need to do is relax and remain very still.
  • The scanner room can be quite cold but you will be offered blankets to keep warm.
  • We will give you ear protection because the scanner makes loud rhythmic knocking and buzzing noises.
  • The noises will change during the scan. Your music will be played through the headphones. We will give you a buzzer which you can use to contact the radiographer at any time.
  • The radiographer can see you during the scan. You can talk to each other through the two-way intercom.
  • During scanning we may ask you to hold your breath several times for short periods. This can improve the quality of your scans.
  • MRI scans can take between 10 to 75 minutes. Our bookings team can tell you how long your scan is likely to take.

    Unfortunately we’re unable to give sedatives or painkillers. 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.

Will you need an injection?

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

Some tests require a small injection of contrast medium (dye) into the arm or hand which contains gadolinium. This is given through a small tube called a cannula. It is not radioactive and is unlikely to cause you any after effects. It helps the doctors to tell the difference between blood vessels and other structures.
If you have an injection port (e.g. PowerPort® or Polysite®), 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.

It is very rare to react to the contrast injection. The most common side effects, if they occur, are feeling or being sick, and this can occur soon after the injection. Please tell the radiographer if you experience any symptoms. If you experience any symptoms 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. You will be offered an after scan information form.

Getting your results

One of our radiologists will analyse your scan. We will then send your report back to the specialist who referred you for the scan. If you do not have another outpatient appointment arranged and you do not hear anything about the results within 3 weeks, we suggest that you contact your referrer’s secretary for advice.

Where to get more information

Visit NHS Choices or ring us on 01923 844953 during office hours if anything is unclear.

NHS Choices

Your feedback

We aim to provide our patients with world-class scanning facilities, clinical excellence and opportunities to take part in innovative health research studies.

We welcome your feedback. Please complete one of our comments cards during your visit, or email contact@stricklandscanner.org.uk. This helps us improve our service.

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