A Short Guide to MRI Scans: How They Work and What to Expect

brain scan

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans have become an integral part of modern medicine, providing detailed images of the body’s internal structures without the need for invasive procedures. 

This non-invasive imaging technique is particularly valuable for women, as it can aid in diagnosing and treating various health conditions and inform decisions about cosmetic surgery. This brief guide will delve into the complexities of MRI scans, demystifying their inner workings and describing what to expect during the procedure.

The Science Behind MRI Scans

MRI scans utilize powerful magnets, radio waves, and a computer to generate high-resolution images of the body’s organs, tissues, and skeletal system. 

When you undergo an MRI scan, the machine’s magnetic field temporarily aligns the hydrogen atoms in your body, causing them to emit a faint signal. This signal is then detected by the machine’s radiofrequency coils, which create a series of cross-sectional images that can be combined to form a detailed 3D image.

One of the advantages of MRI scans is their capacity to distinguish between different types of tissues, which can be extremely useful in diagnosing and treating a variety of health conditions. For instance, a service like Express MRI can help identify early signs of breast cancer or monitor the progress of cosmetic surgery procedures like breast augmentations and tummy tucks.

Preparing for Your MRI Scan

Before your MRI scan, taking certain precautions to ensure the best results and prevent complications is essential. 

Some of the things to consider include:

  • Tell your physician about any medical conditions or implants you may have: It’s crucial to inform your physician about any existing medical conditions, allergies, or implanted devices (such as a pacemaker) that could interfere with the MRI procedure.
  • Dress comfortably: Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing without any metal accessories, such as zippers, buttons, or underwire bras, which can disrupt the MRI machine’s magnetic field.
  • Remove all jewelry and metal objects: This includes glasses, piercings, watches, and even some types of makeup. Your technician will provide you with a secure place to store your belongings during the scan.
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions: Whatever kind of MRI scan you’re getting, your doctor may ask you to fast (not eat) for a certain period or temporarily discontinue certain medications.

What to Expect During the Scan

You’ll be guided into a private room with the MRI machine when you arrive for your MRI scan. 

Here’s what you can expect during the MRI procedure:

  • Lying down: You will be asked to lie down on a cushioned table, which will then slide into the tunnel of the MRI machine. Depending on the scanned area, you may be positioned head-first or feet-first.
  • Staying still: It’s crucial to remain as still as possible during the scan to obtain accurate images. You may be given a cushion or foam wedge to help you stay in the correct position.
  • Communication with the technician: The technician will monitor the procedure from an adjacent room and communicate with you via an intercom system. If you experience discomfort or need assistance, you can alert the technician anytime.
  • Noise: MRI machines can be quite loud, producing a series of knocking and thumping sounds. You’ll be provided with earplugs or headphones to help muffle the noise.
  • Duration: An MRI scan can last anywhere from fifteen minutes to more than an hour, depending on the area being examined and the sophistication of the images required.