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MRI scan

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read
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The letters MRI stand for magnetic resonance imaging and it is a way of scanning that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create accurate images of the inside of your body. The different densities in your body show up as different shades of gray to white in the images produced. MRI is one of the safest forms of scanning and is pain-free. Unlike X-ray and CT scans, it does not cause any radiation exposure. It can be used to look at any part of the body but is particularly useful for looking at the brain, spine, blood vessels, and heart.

More information

An MRI scanner looks like a long white tube and, for the scan, you are laid on a bed that then moves into the tube. The machine can be very noisy at times so you will be given earbuds or headphones to wear. The radiographer (the person running the scanning machine) will usually be able to talk to you through the headphones throughout and they can see you at all times to check if you are ok or if you need to let them know anything. The scan can take from around half an hour all the way up to a few hours depending on what is being scanned and during this time you will need to be as still as possible. You will likely be asked to wear a medical gown for the scan and to take off anything containing metal.

Who can have an MRI?

An MRI is safe for the majority of people to undergo; however, due to it using a strong magnet, it is not safe for anyone who has metal or metalwork in their body. This can include pacemakers, screws, clips or plates, and any fragments of metal that may have entered the eye. If you are unsure, check with the healthcare professional arranging the scan as you may need an X-ray to check for metal and if an MRI is safe. It is not usually recommended to have an MRI scan while pregnant.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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