Key Facts
  • MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging.
  • An MRI uses a large magnet, radio waves and computer to make images of the inside of a person’s body including: organs, tissues and bone.
  • The MRI is painless, but it may bother you if you don’t like tight spaces or noise.
  • Young men's version of this guide

mri“MRI” is short for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. This test is different from an x-ray because it makes a picture of your body’s organs, tissues, and bones without exposing you to radiation. An MRI uses a powerful magnetic field and a kind of radio frequency energy that makes two and three dimensional computerized images of your organs, tissues and bones.

What happens before the MRI?

Before the actual test, you’ll be asked to fill out a screening questionnaire. The technician will ask you if you have any metal in your body such as braces, screws or plates. You will then be asked to remove all metal objects such as jewelry, your watch, and clothing with metal zippers and buttons. You will be given a hospital gown to wear if needed. Next, you’ll be asked to lie down on a narrow bed. Once you’re comfortable, the technician will gently push the bed inside a “doughnut” shaped tube.

What happens during an MRI?

Once in the “doughnut” shaped tube you will hear a series of loud knocking sounds. Before the test, the technician will offer you ear buds so you can listen to music or you can use headphones to block the sound. It will be important to lie as still as possible while the machine is taking the images. The technician will be close by and guide you through the entire procedure.

How long will the MRI take?

The procedure usually takes about 20-90 minutes, depending on the kind of information your health care provider (HCP) and radiologist might be looking for. If you move, it could take longer to get the images. You may be allowed to bring your own music, if not, you can ask if there’s a collection of music to choose from. Listening to music will help the time go by.

Is an MRI painful?

The MRI test itself is painless. The machine never touches your body. Sometimes it’s necessary to have an injection, called “contrast” before the test. This usually is a very minor discomfort – a quick prick that doesn’t take too long.

Is an MRI safe?

MR imaging is approved by the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) for its safety and usefulness in diagnosing many different conditions. Doctors have been using this test since 1981 with good results. However, it’s very important to let the technician know if you have any metal implants or cardiac pacemaker before the procedure. These objects can move or not work properly if exposed to the magnetic field.

What happens after the MRI?

After the MRI, you’ll likely be okay to go back to your daily activities, unless you had special medicine to make you drowsy during the procedure. Your HCP will let you know if you have any restrictions on what you can or can’t do after the MRI, as well as when the results will be available.