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MRI Scans

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What is an MRI scan?

A magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan is one of the safest and most advanced techniques for examining the human body. MRI uses a combination of a strong magnetic field and radio waves to produce high-quality pictures of the tissues and organs inside the body.

Do I need to prepare for scan?

Authorisation from your Medical aid needs to be obtained. Unless asked, you can eat and drink and take your normal medication. Depending on which area of the body is being scanned we may ask you to change into a hospital gown. You will need to remove all loose metal objects, jewellery, hair grips, watches and credit cards which will be placed in a locker while you are in the scanner.

If you are coming for a scan of your orbits (eyes), please remove any eye make-up before you arrive. If you are, or think you may be pregnant, please contact the MRI Unit immediately.

Are there any risks?

MRI is one of the safest diagnostic tests available. However some patients may not be able to have a scan if they have:

  • A Cardiac pacemaker or internal defibrillator

  • Aneurysm clips in the brain

  • Cochlear implants

  • Certain other metallic implants

It is very important that you tell us if you have ever had any metal fragments in your eyes, no matter how long ago and we may need to arrange an x-ray before your scan. If you wait until your appointment date, we may not be able to scan you.

Pregnant women may be advised to wait until their baby is born, unless the scan is urgent. Although the scan is thought to be safe, the long-term effects of strong magnetic fields on a developing baby are not yet known.

What happens when I come for my scan?

Please bring with you your appointment letter and completed patient questionnaire. A radiographer will ask you to lie on the scanner couch and will position equipment around the area being scanned. The couch is then moved up and in so that you are lying inside the scanner, which remains open at both ends.

The scanner makes a series of loud knocking or buzzing noises as it produces the images so we will give you some headphones to muffle the noise. We will also play you some music and talk to you throughout the scan via a two-way intercom.

It is very important that you keep as still as possible during the scan. MRI is entirely painless and you will not feel any discomfort, though you may feel a slight vibration.

How long will the scan take?

Most scans take between 15 and 30 minutes, depending on the area being scanned. However certain types of scans can last up to an hour. The radiographers will be able to tell you approximately how long your scan will be when you arrive. We aim to see all patients on time but delays can occur if the scanner is needed for an emergency patient. We will keep you fully informed if this is the case, and appreciate your co-operation.

Can anyone stay with me during the scan?

If you are anxious or claustrophobic an adult relative or friend can stay in the scanner room with you. However, this person must also complete a safety questionnaire and move all metallic and loose objects from their person.

How do I get my results?

The results will not be available immediately, as the scans need to be processed and studied by a radiologist. We will send the results to the doctor who referred you for the scan or we will phone you when they are ready for collection.