Magnetic Resonance Imaging

MRI scanning is a powerful medical diagnostic tool that uses a strong magnetic field to produce high-quality, images in multiple planes or directions. The images are generated using superconducting magnets and pulsed radio waves. Magnetic resonance imaging uses non ionising radiation, unlike x-rays which uses radiation.

MRI is used to diagnose a wide range of conditions. Wide bore MRI scans are available at Alliance Medical’s centres and scans can be performed feet-first.
Visit our Scan Glossary for details of conditions scans are used for.

It’s important that you tell us
before the MRI scan if you:

  • are (or might be) pregnant
  • have a heart pacemaker, defibrillator or an artificial heart valve
  • have any electro-mechanical devices used for drug delivery
  • have any surgical clips
  • have a cochlear implant, a neurostimulator or a programmable hydrocephalus shunt
  • have had any operations on your head
  • have any metal implant in your body
  • have had an injury to your eyes involving metal or metal fragments

Did you know there are no known side effects from having an MRI scan?

MRI Scan
  • If there is a possibility that you might have metal fragments in the eyes – as a result of a penetrating injury, or from working with metal at high speed – you may need to have an X-ray to ensure that there are no particles present. This is because the MRI scanning magnet can exert a pull on small fragments of metal. Such metal fragments can remain unchanged for many years – so we will need to be absolutely sure, regardless of how long ago a possible injury might have occurred.
  • We make sure that it’s appropriate for you to have an MRI scan. We’ll ask you some basic health questions when you book and you’ll be required to complete a questionnaire before your appointment. Unless we let you know otherwise, you don’t need to make any special preparations before the MRI scan. You can eat and drink as normal and take any prescribed medicine.
  • Please wear clothing without zips or metal buttons, and leave jewellery and watches at home if possible.
  • If requested, please confirm your appointment by phone before your MRI scan and arrive in plenty of time.
  • Please let us know if you have any disabilities so that we can ensure we are able to offer you the highest quality service. You’re welcome to bring a friend or a relative with you, but for safety reasons we won’t allow them into the examination room.
  • Once you’ve checked in at reception (don’t forget to bring your appointment letter), a member of the radiography team will meet you, explain the procedure and go through your safety questionnaire with you.
  • We might ask you to change into a hospital gown. We’ll provide somewhere to store your personal possessions. You’ll be looked after by the radiography team throughout the procedure – they will explain what’s happening and will be there if you experience any discomfort.
  • You’ll have the opportunity to ask any questions about the scanning process.
  • We might need to give you an injection (known as a contrast medium) to increase the amount of information we can get from the MRI scan, depending on the area we’re scanning.
  • The examination consists of several scans, each lasting a few minutes with a short pause between each. The whole procedure will take between quarter of an hour and one hour – depending on which part(s) of the body we’re scanning.
  • We’ll ask you to lie down on the scanner bed and we’ll make sure you’re comfortable so you can stay as still as possible. With magnetic resonance imaging you won’t feel anything, but there is some mechanical noise from the equipment – we’ll provide you with some ear defenders or ear plugs. For safety reasons, we don’t normally allow anyone accompanying you to come into the examination room whilst the scan is in progress.
  • There are no restrictions on normal activity – you can eat and drink normally, drive and return to work immediately after the MRI scan.
  • If we’ve given you a contrast injection we will check you before you leave the scanner. A Radiologist will examine the images shortly after your visit and send a report to your Doctor or Consultant, normally within a few days.
  • For ethical and professional reasons, we cannot discuss results with you. Only your Doctor or Consultant can do this.

Is my MRI scan covered by my health insurance plan?

It is best to contact your insurer directly to find out if your MRI scan is covered by your plan on any of our 20+ sites.

 

What is an MRI?

It is a test that uses powerful magnets and radio waves to get detailed images inside your body.

 

Why am I being sent for one?

Your doctor has sent you for an MRI  scan to help reach a diagnosis and decide on which treatment plan is most suitable for your condition.

 

Is an MRI safe?

Yes getting an MRI scan is very safe. This diagnostic imaging tool does not involve an exposure to radiation. In fact, there are no known side effects related to an MRI scan. However, because it does involve exposure to strong magnetic field patients with certain devices like pacemakers and other implants cannot get an MRI.

 

How long does the scan take?

MRI scans can typically take last between 20 minutes and one hour and a half. However, depending on the type of study, if you lie perfectly still the MRI scan will be much faster as no images will have to be repeated.

 

Can I talk during the exam?

Though you will need to remain still, you will be able to communicate with the radiographer at various intervals. You’re free to ask a question and answer any questions addressed to you. There is a microphone inside the scanner as well as a camera for communication.

 

Is an MRI scan painful?

There is no pain associated with an MRI scan.

 

How does the MRI scanner work?

Your body is composed of small particles called atoms. Most of the body is composed of hydrogen atoms that under normal circumstances spin around at random. However, when you’re placed within a strong magnetic field, the hydrogen atoms line-up and spin in the same direction of magnetic fields. When a radio frequency rate is transmitted through the tissues in the body the hydrogen atoms produce a signal. The signal is a measure to produce an image.

 

What causes the noise in the scanner?

The noise that scanning creates of the electrical current rising within the wires of the gradient magnet. Currently the wires are opposing the main magnetic field; the stronger the field the louder the gradient noise. You will be given earplugs/earphones to help minimize the noise.

 

What is the difference between MRI and CT?

Both MRI and CT create cross-sectional images of the body. The main difference is that MRI uses a large magnet and radio waves to produce the images whereas the CT scanner uses ionising and ionising radiation. The systems can complement each other well as they both have their inherent strengths and weaknesses. CT, however can only acquire transversal coronal images, whereas MRI can directly acquire slices on any plane and is superior when it comes to soft tissue contrast.

 

Can you scan my entire body while I am in there?

No. The MRI scanner can scan almost any part of the body but each scanner is limited to a specific area you can take from 20 to 60 minutes scan each area.

 

Why is my whole body in the scanner if you are only scanning my head?

The area in the scanner that creates the images is located in the centre of the magnet and is called the iso centre. Therefore, in order to scan your head most of the upper body will be in the scanner. The same is true when imaging the spine and upper extremities.

 

Does the MRI table have a wait and size limit?

Yes, the table limit is 250 KG with a maximum width of 70 cm. For optimal images it is necessary for the area being scanned to be within the magnet advice centre which is located directly in the central scanner. For any patient specific questions please feel free to contact us.

 

The questionnaire is asking if I have metal in my eye, however, I am not having my head scanned – do I need to mention it?

Yes it is extremely important for the radiographer to know if you have any history of metal in your eye.

 

Can I take a sedative for my MRI?

Yes you can take a sedative for your MRI scan. You will need to arrange this with your own doctor prior to the exam. Radiographers do not have permission to give you a sedative.

 

I’m claustrophobic, is it a small space? 

We are very experienced in helping patients that can experience claustrophobia. While the scanners can appear narrow, in reality patients generally find the scanners comfortable and successfully complete the scans.  Our radiographers will speak with you during the scan and help you get through it.  Please advise us if you are in anyway nervous or claustrophobic, our friendly staff will be here to assist you.

 

If I want to stop my MRI scan is it possible?

Yes that is no problem, you will be given a buzzer which you will squeeze if you wish to stop the scan.

 

Can I wear my piercings?

It is best to remove all of your piercing. If they cannot be removed we will give you a plaster to wear over them however if you find a heating sensation around your piercing during the scan it will have to be stopped.

 

Can I add extra areas to be scanned on the day?

No. A referral from a clinician or registered physiotherapist for musculoskeletal requests is required for every MRI request which then must be approved by a consultant radiologist or a suitably qualified radiographer.

 

How much is an MRI Scan?

Prices start at €220, however, the exact price you can get will depend on how many areas were scanned and whether or not you required contrast.

 

Can I take someone with me?

It is best not to take anybody with you in to the scan room due to the strong magnetic field. Having additional people in the scan room may also impact on the image quality. But if you need someone to go into the scan room with you, they too will need to fill out an MRI safety questionnaire.

 

Can I drive after my scan?

The scan itself will not impact your ability to drive. Please do not drive if you intend to take a sedative. Some examinations require the administration of Buscopan. This muscle relaxant can have a short-term effect on your vision.

 

What is an injection of contrast?

Some examinations require an injection of contrast to see the blood supply to certain organs. Whether you will receive a contrast agent can depend on what clinical reasons your referring doctor gave for your scan as well as how clear certain body parts appear on the scan. This can vary from patient to patient.

 

How long will I be waiting for an appointment?

Please phone the site to answer this question.

 

Should I wear particular clothing?

Please wear loose fitting clothing with no metal zips buttons or studs. If you are wearing leggings please ensure they do not contain any anti-perspirant material as this sometimes has a metal component to it.

 

Who gets my results?

The Doctor/Physiotherapist who sent you for your exam is the person who will receive your results.

 

Can you send results to my GP even though they weren’t the one to refer me?

Yes, you can CC another clinician as long as you sign a third party disclosure agreement on the day of your scan.

 

How long does it take to get results?

A report will normally get sent to your referring after 5-7 working days.

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