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Department of Radiology

at Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a highly advanced technology that uses a sophisticated computer, radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce very detailed images of the internal structures of your body. MRI does not use X-rays and is therefore considered to be very safe with no known side effects or health risks. The patient is not exposed to radiation.

MRI is commonly requested to help visualize the brain, central nervous system and spine, soft tissues and joints, blood vessels and organs of the chest, abdomen and pelvis. MRI can detect tumors, cysts, disease of the arterial and venous systems, soft tissue tears and many other anomalies.

MRI Topics

Key Information about MRI

Key Information About MRI:

  • The MRI machine is always on.
  • Scans can be performed on patients weighing up to 400 lbs.
  • MRI exams usually take 30 to 60 minutes to complete.   
  • Though both ends of the machine are open, some patients may feel claustrophobic.
  • Before your MRI, contact your doctor to prescribe medication for pain or claustrophobia if needed.
  • The technologist will explain the procedure and give you instructions before and during the exam. If you have any concerns with your ability to follow directions, hold your breath, remain still for several minutes at a time or feel you may be claustrophobic, please inform the technologist. 
  • The MRI machine is noisy; you can expect to feel vibrations from the noise or the table shaking. 
  • You will be given earplugs or head phones with music during your exam.
    Ear Protection for MRI
  • The technologist will place firm pads and coils on or around the body part that is being scanned.
  • Certain devices (pacemakers, metal) can heat up, cause pain or obscure the MRI image. You will need to fill out an MRI safety screening form before your MRI to ensure you do not have any of these devices.
  • You will be asked to change into a hospital gown.
  • Please remove all jewelry, dentures, clothing with metal, keys, phones, credit cards and watches prior to your MRI. Lockers with pad locks will be provided to secure your valuables and clothing, however it is best to leave valuables at home.
  • Results for your exam are generally available for your provider to view same day. Exams are interpreted by a board certified radiologist and a detailed report will be sent to your ordering provider within 24 to 48 hours after your exam.




Types of MRI Exams and How to Prepare:

Be sure to bring a list of current medications to your MRI exam. During your MRI, there will be up to two technologists assisting you. Your comfort is important to us. Please tell your technologist how to best help you to get on and off the table. You will be lying on your back or stomach and you will be positioned in one of three ways.

  • Feet First Studies
    (Abdomen/Pelvis/Knees/Hips/Thighs/Lower Legs/Ankles/Feet/Elbows/Wrists and Hands)
    During feet first exams, your head will be out of or at the opening of the MRI machine. For abdomen exams, you are required to fast with nothing to eat or drink 4 to 6 hours before the exam. Oral contrast is used for abdominal enterography studies to look at the bowel.
  • Head First Studies
    (Brain/Cervical/Neck/Chest/Thoracic Spine/Lumbar Spine*/Shoulder/Humerus)
    During head first exams, your head will be in the middle, center of the machine.
  • Breast Studies
    You will be lying on your stomach for the MRI exam which takes 25 minutes.

*The lumbar spine can also be scanned feet first if requested.



Some cases require an IV and injection. The contrast injected is used to enhance tissue. It is needed for abscess, infection, cancer and lumbar surgeries. It is possible that you will need lab work before your MRI.


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