Demystifying MRI Scans: What to Expect

If your neurologist has recommended an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan of your brain or spine, you may have questions about what the procedure entails. In this blog post, we will provide an overview of what to expect during an MRI scan, including the use of contrast (gadolinium).

  1. What is an MRI Scan? An MRI scan is a non-invasive imaging test that uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the body’s internal structures. It provides valuable information for diagnosing and monitoring various medical conditions. Unlike CT scan or X-ray, MRI’s do not use radiation whatsoever. 
  2. Preparing for the MRI Scan: Before the MRI, you will be asked to remove any metal objects or devices that could interfere with the magnetic field. You may also be required to change into a gown. If contrast (gadolinium) is ordered for your scan, your doctor may request blood work ahead of time to assess kidney function.
  3. The Use of Contrast (Gadolinium): Contrast agents, such as gadolinium, may be used during an MRI to enhance the visibility of certain tissues and blood vessels. Gadolinium is a type of contrast agent that is injected intravenously during the scan. It helps highlight specific areas of interest and can provide additional diagnostic information to your healthcare provider.
  4. Blood Work and Contrast Administration: If your doctor has ordered contrast (gadolinium) for your MRI, they may request blood work to assess kidney function. The kidneys help eliminate the contrast agent from the body. Blood work allows the healthcare team to ensure that your kidneys are functioning properly and can safely process the contrast agent.
  5. During the MRI Scan: You will lie on a table that slides into the MRI machine, which resembles a large tube. It is important to remain still during the scan to avoid blurring the images. The machine may produce loud noises during the scanning process, but you will be provided with earplugs or headphones to help block out the sound.
  6. Duration and Aftercare: The duration of an MRI scan can vary depending on the area being imaged, but it typically ranges from 15 minutes to an hour. Once the scan is complete, you can resume your normal activities immediately. If contrast was used, any mild side effects, such as a metallic taste or a warm sensation, usually subside quickly.
  7. Discussing Results: After your MRI scan, the images will be reviewed and interpreted by a radiologist. They will provide a detailed report of the findings to your referring healthcare provider. Your doctor will discuss the results with you and explain their implications for your diagnosis and treatment plan.

MRI scans are valuable diagnostic tools that provide detailed images of internal structures. If your doctor has ordered an MRI with contrast, the need for blood work is essential to ensure the safe administration and elimination of the contrast agent from your body.

If you have any specific concerns or questions about the MRI scan or the use of contrast, don’t hesitate to discuss them with your Community Neuroscience Services neurologist. They can address any doubts and provide personalized information based on your unique situation.

Remember, the MRI scan is a painless and safe procedure that plays a crucial role in diagnosing and monitoring various medical conditions. Your healthcare team will guide you through the process and ensure your comfort and well-being throughout the imaging procedure.



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