How Do I Prepare For An MRI?
An MRI is the perfect scan for people who don’t want to disrupt their normal routines. Preparation for getting an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is as simple as maintaining your regular routine when it comes to eating, drinking, and medicating. In the days preceding your scan, don’t do anything out of the ordinary – no new piercings or new medications. Follow your doctor’s instructions. On the day of your MRI, you can eat and drink like normal, although in some cases you might have to stop 1-4 hours ahead of your appointment. Because an MRI can scan pretty much any part of your body, there are some differences in preparation depending on what is being scanned.
One type of MRI is an MRI with contrast. This just means that your doctor will have you ingest some contrast dye (this could be something you drink or something that is given intravenously). You should arrive 15-30 minutes early to your MRI appointment to get the contrast solution. In order for it to show up clearest, please try to limit eating and drinking 4 hours before your appointment. Other than those things, your preparation will not be any different than a regular MRI without contrast.
What Should I Do Before My MRI?
It’s important not to drink a lot of caffeine before your MRI because caffeine will make your blood vessels constrict. If your scan is monitoring blood flow, constricted blood vessels will give you inaccurate results. However, it is also important that you don’t totally eliminate your caffeine intake on the day of your scan, either, because that will also offer results that don’t reflect your normal, daily blood flow. On the day of your MRI, drink the amount of caffeine you normally would so that your results will reflect a regular day for you.
Try to limit the amount of water you drink right before your scan. Getting an MRI can take between 15-90 minutes, so remember to use the restroom before your scan begins because you won’t get another chance until your scan is over. Usually, if you stop drinking water for 1-2 hours before your appointment, you should be all right.
You do not have to fast before your MRI – with or without contrast. When you do eat, though, try to stay away from heavy, greasy foods. Lighter meals made of fruits, vegetables, beans, etc. are better for the day of your scan. It is also wise to stop eating somewhere between 1-4 hours before your appointment.
On the day of your exam, be sure to shower, but do not apply lotion, deodorant, or moisturizer. These creams can sometimes contain microscopic bits of metal that can negatively interact with the magnet inside the MRI machine and damage your skin. In the same way, you should not wear makeup, mascara, or nail polish to your MRI as they might contain metal. Do not wear wigs or put any product in your hair.
Don’t put on any jewelry. Gold rings that are made entirely of gold are allowed to be worn, but not gold-plated or gold mixed with a different metal. Wearing metal inside the MRI machine is dangerous because the machine itself is basically a huge magnet. The metal will be drawn to the magnet, and will heat up or even fly off your body in ways that could hurt you. In order to keep you safe, please be sure to leave all jewelry and metal items outside the machine. If you have a ring that you cannot get off, your last resort would be to go to a jeweler and have them remove it (often this means cutting or breaking the ring). The metal in cavity fillings on your teeth is safe to be inside the MRI machine. Dental crowns are also allowed inside the MRI machine, as long as they are porcelain, resin, or solid gold.
When it comes to clothing, wear loose, comfortable-fitting clothes to your appointment. Be sure to wear clothing that does not have any metal in it (zippers, buttons, etc.). If your clothes do have metal in them, you’ll be given a hospital gown to change into for your scan. Normally you can wear your underwear and socks during the scan, unless your radiologist is concerned about metal microfibers. For women, you can wear a bra inside the MRI machine as long as it doesn’t contain any metal (clasp, underwire, etc.).
What Happens During An MRI?
Your MRI appointment can take anywhere from 15-90 minutes, during which you’ll have to lay as still as possible in order to capture clear, quality images. You may be asked to hold your breath for 10-20 seconds depending on what part of your body is being imaged. You can have your eyes open during the scan, although some patients find that closing their eyes or putting a washcloth over them helps keep their nerves calm. If you close your eyes, though, please be sure not to fall asleep. While you sleep, your body can twitch and move, ruining the MR images being taken.
At SJRA we will provide you with a headrest, washcloth to cover your eyes and blanket. You can also request earplugs or special headphones that are safe to use inside the machine. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to use AirPods inside the MRI machine because they are metal.
What If I Am Nervous For My MRI?
If you are nervous about your MRI, you are not alone. Your comfort is our highest priority, so if you are feeling anxious about being claustrophobic during your MRI scan, try to practice breathing exercises as part of your preparation. Stretch before your scan begins and during your scan, close your eyes and picture yourself somewhere else. If you start to panic, there is a panic button you can press that will slide the bed out of the machine. Although many patients say even just having the option of the panic button helps them, remember that if you press it you will have to start your scan over.
If you are still overwhelmed, talk to your doctor about sedation options. If you choose to be sedated for your MRI, make sure to organize to have someone pick you up from your appointment. If – for some reason – you aren’t able to be sedated, there are several other alternative MRI machines that offer a wider or more open MRI experience. An Open MRI machine is just that: open on three sides so that your body is never fully enclosed inside the magnet. SJRA offers a Wide Bore MRI machine, which is a bigger, wider version of a regular MRI machine. Talk to your doctor about these alternative options and schedule your appointment with SJRA today.
Are There Any After Effects Of An MRI?
After your appointment, you might feel tired or even have a headache. Although there are no side effects to getting an MRI, these are common because of the mental strain and stress of this scan. The lights and loud machinery noises can also contribute. If you got an MRI with contrast, you may feel those symptoms as well as nausea or itching at the injection site. If these symptoms persist, contact your doctor. Your MRI results will be sent to your doctor after your scan is over. Your doctor will contact you within 3-7 business days to go over your results with you.
Getting an MRI scan is stressful enough – preparing should be the least of your worries. If the helpful tips in this article offer any relief, your MRI appointment with SJRA will be a breeze. Contact us at any of the following locations to schedule an appointment with us:
- Route 73 Office – Voorhees Township, NJ
- Greentree Office – Marlton, NJ
- Washington Township Office – Sewell, NJ
- Turnersville Office – Turnersville, NJ
- Voorhees Office – Voorhees Township, NJ
- West Deptford Office – West Deptford, NJ
Learn more about the board-certified sub-specialized radiologists who read and interpret studies at SJRA here.
Before your MRI, it's important to maintain your regular routine when it comes to eating, drinking, and medicating. Avoid doing anything out of the ordinary such as getting new piercings or starting new medications. Follow your doctor's instructions regarding eating and drinking before the scan. In some cases, you may need to stop eating or drinking 1-4 hours ahead of your appointment. For an MRI with contrast, arrive 15-30 minutes early to ingest the contrast solution. Try to limit eating and drinking 4 hours before the appointment for optimal image clarity.
It is recommended not to consume a lot of caffeine before the MRI. Caffeine can constrict blood vessels, potentially affecting the accuracy of blood flow monitoring during the scan. However, completely eliminating caffeine intake on the day of the scan can also yield results that do not reflect your normal daily blood flow. Drink the amount of caffeine you would normally consume on a regular day.
No, fasting is not required before an MRI, whether with or without contrast. However, it is advisable to avoid heavy, greasy foods. Opt for lighter meals consisting of fruits, vegetables, and beans on the day of your scan. Generally, it is recommended to stop eating 1-4 hours before your appointment.
Wear loose, comfortable-fitting clothes to your MRI appointment. Avoid clothing with metal components such as zippers and buttons. If your clothes have metal, you'll be provided with a hospital gown. Do not wear lotion, deodorant, moisturizer, makeup, mascara, nail polish, wigs, or hair products containing metal. Remove all jewelry. Metal objects can be hazardous in the MRI machine's magnetic field. Cavity fillings and porcelain, resin, or solid gold dental crowns are generally safe.
During an MRI, you will need to lie still for 15-90 minutes while clear, quality images are captured. Depending on the area being imaged, you may be asked to hold your breath for 10-20 seconds. You can keep your eyes open or close them, but falling asleep should be avoided as it may cause movements that affect image quality. SJRA provides a headrest, a washcloth for covering your eyes, and a blanket. Earplugs or special headphones may be requested, but AirPods are not allowed due to their metal content.
Feeling nervous about an MRI is common. Practice breathing exercises and stretching before the scan to help relax. You can picture yourself somewhere else to calm your nerves. If you experience panic, there is a panic button available to slide the bed out of the machine. However, using the panic button will require starting the scan over. If you are overwhelmed, discuss sedation options with your doctor or inquire about alternative MRI machines such as Open MRI or Wide Bore MRI.
After your MRI, you may feel tired or experience a headache, which is common due to the mental strain and stress of the scan. The lights and noises of the machinery can also contribute to this. If you had an MRI with contrast, you may experience symptoms like nausea or itching at the injection site. If these symptoms persist, contact your doctor. Your MRI results will be sent to your doctor, who will discuss them with you within 3-7 business days.
To schedule an MRI appointment, you can contact any of the following locations: