Frequently Asked Questions about MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Here is a typical side view image of the knee as seen on MRIHere are some of the questions commonly asked by patients who need an MRI or magnetic resonance imaging exam.

Why is this test important?
MRI allows doctors to see images of your internal organs and structures in great detail from many angles. This gives them information more quickly, and in many cases more economically, than past tests and exploratory surgeries.

Will it hurt?
No. Since MRI is "non-invasive", the exam is painless. However, your doctor may utilize a contrast agent to better visualize a part of your anatomy. If this is the case, you may receive a simple shot prior to or during the exam.

Will I feel anything?
No, but you will hear a loud knocking or buzzing sound at various intervals throughout your exam. Other than that, you won't feel a thing.

Does the machine use X-rays?
No. MRI uses a powerful magnet in conjunction with radiofrequency waves to generate images of your internal organs and structures. There is no ionizing (X-Ray) radiation.

Will I fit?
There are very few patients who cannot be comfortably accommodated for an MRI exam. Our table weight limit is 350 lbs.

Is the machine open at both ends?
Yes. Both our MR systems are open at both ends.

Will my head stick out?
That will depend on your height and what part of your body is being scanned. The part that is being imaged is in the middle of the magnet. For example, if your ankle is being scanned, your head will be outside of the MR scanner. If it is your head, neck, or chest is scanned, your head will be inside of the scanner.

I'm having a head scan. Can I see outside the magnet during my exam?
Yes. Our MRI system uses a special mirror arrangement to allow you to see outside the magnet at all times.

Will I be claustrophobic?
Most people have no reaction at all. However, if you have had claustrophobic reactions to enclosed spaces before, you should let the technologist know. Even if you are uncomfortable in small spaces, staff members can help you complete the study. We also have a nurse available who can administer a mild sedative (only during certain hours of the day; please let us know in advance, and plan on having a driver).

Will I be alone?
You will be in contact with a technologist at all times. Even when he or she is not in the MRI room, you will be able to talk to him or her by intercom. The technologist is always able to see you through a large patient viewing window. In some cases a friend or family member may stay in the scan room with you during your exam. Please consult our MRI schedulers at (907) 212-3146.

Does the machine make a lot of noise?
The magnet makes a knocking sound as images are being taken. In between scans the machine is quiet. Ear plugs are available to you for your exam and their use will not prevent you from hearing the technologist if he or she speaks to you during the exam.

Do I have to hold still the whole time?
You do have to remain as still as possible, but the time passes quickly. Moving during the procedure may require repeating parts of the exam so it is best to try to remain as still as possible for the best exam results.

How long will the exam take?
That will depend on what is being studied, but a typical exam lasts between 30 and 60 minutes. You should always allow extra time in case the exam lasts longer than expected.

Will my insurance cover the cost of the exam?
Most insurance plans will reimburse the cost of most MRI exams. To find out if your insurance plan covers the specific MRI exam you will be having, contact your personnel office or insurance agent. Our schedulers are happy to assist with pre-authorization of your exam, and will do this with help from your clinician's office.

Are there things that will prevent me from being scanned?
Some patients with metal implants cannot be safely scanned in the MR environment. People with pacemakers, aneurysm clips, especially in the brain; and neurostimulators generally cannot be scanned. Anyone with surgical pins, shrapnel, plates or other type of metal implants should notify the technologist. You will be required to provide a health history when you arrive for your exam explaining any metallic implants you may have. A doctor will determine if a particular metal implant is approved to be in an MR environment.

What if I have kidney problems?  Will the contrast that is used hurt me?

What Does an MRI Sound Like?

Click on the Youtube video below to hear a typical MRI scanner in action.