If you have been scheduled for an MRI test, you may be familiar with the acronym, but not much else. The first thing to know is: Don’t worry. MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) has been in use since the 1970s. An MRI test is normally painless, does not involve radiation, and helps doctors diagnose a very wide range of conditions that would be difficult or painful to diagnose using other procedures.
The infographic below, MRI Preparation: What to Expect, explains what happens before, during and after the test. From your point of view as a patient, there’s nothing in the infographic that will scare you, but there are several things you’ll learn that are very important.
The biggest challenges you’ll probably have with your MRI is the dress code. You’ll be told by your doctor in advance not to wear any metal during the test — metal and MRI tests do not mix. You should also tell your doctor about any metal you have inside, such as artificial joints or a pacemaker. The infographic also highlights other things to not wear during the test, such as makeup.
Depending on what part of your body is being scanned, you may find yourself almost completely inside the MRI tube for a test that can last from 15 minutes to over an hour. If you are claustrophobic, make sure your doctor is well aware of it in advance of the test. In some cases, claustrophobia is treated with a sedative; in less severe cases, simply having your favorite background music is enough to reduce anxiety.
Although an MRI produces images almost immediately, it can take anywhere from a few days to two weeks for radiologists to review them and doctors to report back. This is why, as the infographic states, it is a good idea to ask how long that report will take before you leave. For all the MRI details, please continue reading.