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What Is An MRI Scan And When Is It Recommended?

Medically reviewed by Mia Dacumos, MD · Nephrology · Makati Medical Center

Written by Elaine Felicitas · Updated Aug 23, 2022

    What Is An MRI Scan And When Is It Recommended?

    We often hear MRIs in movies and TV shows where a character is diagnosed with severe and life-threatening conditions. They are tested in a dome-like machine that confirms their incurable disease. But what is an MRI scan? Do patients have to have a serious illness to undergo this procedure? How do patients prepare for it?

    What is an MRI Scan?

    MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging, which is a kind of diagnostic procedure that takes pictures of the body using radio waves. Protons, found in water and which are present in the body, respond to the magnetic field that the MRI machine sends out. A computer receives this information to create a clear and very detailed image of the organ.

    Unlike the CT scan and normal x-ray, an MRI is safer to use as it does not use radiation throughout the procedure. The results are also produced faster as the data is relayed to a computer instantaneously. But as an MRI uses a powerful magnet, it may not be good for certain people who have medical devices/ implants in their bodies or have conditions that may react to the scan. Consult your doctor. 

    When Is It Recommended To Get One?

    MRI scans like CT scans can be expensive. This is because it provides high-level data that gives doctors and medical practitioners accurate information about a patient’s condition.

    An MRI scan is usually recommended for the following cases:

    • Check tumors, injuries, and diseases found in soft tissue organs such as the brain, heart, and digestive system
    • Diagnose conditions in the reproductive organ such as prostate glands, womb, and breast
    • Monitor previous treatment to help plan future treatments

    MRI scans are complemented by x-ray results, which provide more data on the bones. MRIs rely mostly on the water found in the organ and so cannot provide accurate data on bone tissue. Bone does not contain much water.

    How Do You Prepare For It?

    After answering “What is an MRI scan?”, now we proceed with the question – “How do patients prepare for it?”

    But before going into preparation, it is good to understand what the risks are. It was mentioned earlier that people with metallic devices and implants may not be allowed to undergo this procedure. Pregnant women are also not advised to take this scan as it may have an effect on their baby. Children and people with claustrophobia should also consult their doctors first as the confined space can be a little unsettling for them.

    Before MRI Scan

    As preparation, anything that has metal or can be affected by magnets should be stored or left at home. This includes jewelry, accessories, cellphones, and dentures. Patients are required to use a hospital gown to ensure that their clothing does not have any zippers or metallic clasps. Any metal object can injure the patient during an MRI scan.

    During MRI Scan

    The procedure may require contrast or a special dye that makes the images clearer. This is introduced into the body via an IV line. Patients are given earplugs or headphones to lessen the intense sound of the machine, which can be scary or uncomfortable for some.

    The patient is expected to lie still in the bed so that the images will not be blurry. The session may take around 15 to 80 minutes depending on what is being checked.

    After MRI Scan

    There are no specific after-procedure activities that need to be done. It is considered one of the safest medical procedures. If there are any concerns or reactions with the contrast, consult your doctor.

    Key Takeaway

    There are a lot of medical procedures that help doctors diagnose a condition and which help in coming up with the proper treatments for their patient’s ailments. Knowing the answer to “What is an MRI scan?” and how to prepare for it can lessen the anxiety a patient feels about their condition and the procedure that they will need to take. 

    Consult your doctor for any concerns regarding your MRI scan.

    Learn more about Medical Procedures here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Mia Dacumos, MD

    Nephrology · Makati Medical Center

    Written by Elaine Felicitas · Updated Aug 23, 2022

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