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What Is an MRI?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses a powerful magnetic field, radio waves, and a computer to produce detailed pictures of organs, soft tissues, bones, and other internal body structures. Unlike other imaging techniques such as X-rays and CT scans, MRI does not expose patients to the potentially harmful effects of radiation.

How Should I Prepare?

You will be asked not to eat for 2 hours prior to the procedure. Please do not wear any jewelry or metal, and please do not wear make-up or use hair products if your head is being scanned.

What Should I Expect?

You will not be able to have an MRI examination if you have any of the following:

  • Most pacemakers
  • Certain brain aneurysm clips
  • Cochlear implants
  • Metallic fragments in an eye
  • Implanted spinal cord stimulator
  • Certain other metal-containing implants

Some exams require injection of a contrast agent into a vein in your hand or arm to improve visualization of abnormalities on the MRI images. MRI contrast is an organically bound gadolinium-based material that is extremely safe and typically has no side effects, though there is always the potential for allergic reaction. Please let us know if:

  • You are pregnant or think you might be
  • You are breastfeeding
  • You have anemia or any diseases that affect red blood cells
  • You have asthma or other allergic respiratory disorders
  • You have kidney (renal) disease
  • You have a history of injury during military service
  • You have a history of working with metal

After you arrive for your appointment, you will be escorted to a procedure room, where you will be asked to change into a patient gown. The technologist will position you on a cushioned table that will move into the tube-shaped scanner. After you have been properly positioned, the technologist will begin obtaining the MRI images.

The MRI machine creates a magnetic field around you and directs radio waves at your body to create the MRI images. You won’t feel the magnetic field or radio waves, but you may hear loud tapping and thumping sounds coming from inside the machine. While the images are obtained, you will be instructed to breathe normally but to lie as still as possible. The technologist will monitor you from another room. You will be able to speak to the technologist through a microphone, and the technologist will also be able to talk to you. Most exams take from 30 to 60 minutes, after which you will be able to return to your normal activities.

For your safety and the protection of others, we do not allow anyone other than patients in our exam rooms.

How Do I Get the Results?

After your study, the images will be evaluated by one of our board-certified radiologists with expertise in MRI imaging. A final report will be sent to your doctor or healthcare provider, who can then discuss the results with you in detail.

Reports are also available on the MyRAD Patient Portal

Meet Dan, Tucson resident

No matter the activity, the knee is essential to being an active player. Dan, an avid athlete from Tucson, was at the point where he couldn’t even walk. An MRI allowed his doctors to see cross-sectional images of his torn ACL and meniscus and gave them the information they needed to plan effective surgery. After a full year of recovery, Dan is back to his active lifestyle.