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What to expect from your MRI Brain Scan

Updated on May 7, 2011
brain scanning with mri system, scottsdale, arizona
brain scanning with mri system, scottsdale, arizona | Source
typical axial, coronal and sagittal views are done of the brain with different hydrogen weightings during a standard mri brain scan
typical axial, coronal and sagittal views are done of the brain with different hydrogen weightings during a standard mri brain scan | Source

What to expect from your MRI brain scan

What to expect from your mri brain study can be perplexing, as MRI is not like any of the other radiology imaging processes.

After scheduling and correct insurance authorization, remember you have every right to pick and choose where you get your exam done, as long as your insurance approves the radiology mri center.

Appropriate questions will be asked about your personal health history. If you have had any surgery, implants, a pacemaker, cardiac or carotid stents, any metal clips or fragments in your eyes and other important questions that pertain to your personal safety going into the MRI scanner. Inform the mri site before you arrive if you have any questions. It often takes time to clarify the implant type, (make, model, manufacturer), so it is important to allow an adequate amount of time before you arrive for the mri brain scan. You may need some orbit x-rays to check the eyes for metal if you have had metal chips or fragments in them. The danger is that any metal in the eye could move when going into the mri scanner, which could cause blindness. 

The scanner is always on when patients are involved.

Metal on the jeans, and other places could "steal" signal from your study, so you may want to change out of your street clothes. The scanner has to "shim" to your personal body habitus and frequency. Most MRI manufacturers recommend patients change clothes before their MRI scans. You can alleviate the need to change clothes by wearing an all cotton wardrobe without any metal, metal fabric in the labels, tags or metal based inks on shirts.

You should use the restroom before your exam. It is not unusual for patients to get nervous about the exam.

All jewelry and piercings should be removed before entering the MRI exam room. You will not be able to bring anything metal into the exam room, and bringing your cell phone may ruin it.

After your screening questions, and you have been "cleared for safety" to enter the MRI exam room, your exam should begin.

You will be asked to lie down on a narrow mri exam table. Most MRI technologists spend the time to get you comfortable for the study.They know if you are comfortable, you are more likely to hold still.

For the mri brain study, you will be head first into the scanner, on your back (called supine.) Your head will be inside a helmet of sorts, called a "head coil" for reading the signals that will be coming out of your hydrogen protons on your head. Most helmets (RF mri brain coils) have portions that cover the eyes, so be prepared for not being able to move your head much while inside the helmet. You will want to hold still in order to get the best images possible.

Ear plugs will be given to you to protect your ears from the noise during image acquisition, or headphones will be given to you if they fit inside the mri brain rf coil. Many of the newer coils are smaller for better image quality, and it is difficult to fit the headphones inside the head coil against your ears and be comfortable.

The study takes anywhere from about twenty minutes to one and a half hours depending upon the site, the sequences they are running, and if you need thinner slices, or a special focused study with contrast. Do not move especially when you hear the scanner making noise. It is acquiring the signals that will make your images.

If your technologist takes good care of you, and coaches you through your mri brain study successfully, write them a great review. This is one thing that doesn't get done as much as it should, and they will definitely appreciate it.

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    • MRI Optimize profile imageAUTHOR

      MRI Optimize 

      7 years ago from usa, az, wa, ca, tx, nm, mt, id, or, ny, at, fl, nv, vt, ky, tn, sd, nd, ak,

      Claustrophobia is a significant hurdle when performing or having an MRI brain study. On the knee, not so much because the knee goes to the middle of the scanner, and the head stays out of the machine. A washcloth over the eyes works on about 80% of the population. For others, they may need to get a sedative from their doctor, or try an "open mri" scanner.

    • KevinTimothy profile image

      Kevin J Timothy 

      7 years ago from Tampa Bay, FL

      I've never had one of these and hope to never have to do it. It was great to know what to expect, though. Thanks for the information. It does seem like it would make someone very nervous if they don't like closed in spaces.


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