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Preparing for your MRI Exam

Click to listen to this page using ReadPleaseYou have been scheduled to have an MRI scan at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. We hope these guidelines will help you prepare for your test. If you answer yes to either of the following questions, please contact the MRI department at 684-6321. More information or additional testing may be required before you are able to have an MRI:


  1. Do you have a pacemaker, cochlear implant or brain aneurysm clip(s)?
  2. Have you ever worked with metal or have you ever had an accident that may have caused a sliver of metal to go in to your eye(s)?


Your Comfort and Safety


If you have claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces) or anxiety, we encourage you to ask your physician for a prescription for a mild sedative. MRI exams can last anywhere between 20 and 45 minutes and it is important to remain still for the entire test. If you have any concerns about being in a confined space for this long, please discuss sedation with your physician.


An MRI scanner is essentially a large magnet that has a very powerful magnet field (15,000) times the force of gravity! Metal objects and electronic devices are therefore extremely unsafe in an MRI environment.

When you register for your MRI on the date of your examination, you will be given an MRI screening form to complete. The screening questionnaire asks important safety questions. Prior to your exam, the technologist will review your responses to the screening questionnaire. This will give you a chance to ask any additional questions prior to having the test.


Dressing for your MRI

To keep patients ‘metal free’ in the MRI scanning room, you will be asked to remove street clothes and wear a hospital gown for the MRI exam. You will also be asked to remove the following items prior to your MRI scan:

  • Jewelry, watches, credit cards and hearing aids, which can be damaged by the MRI’s magnetic field
  • Pins, hairpins, and similar metallic items
  • Removable dental work
  • Pens, pocketknives and eyeglasses
  • Some body piercings
  • Patches for pain, nitro, nicotine, etc.

Although we strive to provide, as much as possible, a secure location for personal belongings, we encourage patients to leave valuables at home.


Eating, Drinking and taking Medications before your MRI

Guidelines about eating and drinking before an MRI exam vary with exam type. Unless you are told otherwise, you may follow your regular daily routine and take medications as usual.


MRI and Contrast Media

Some MRI examinations require an injection of contrast medium into the bloodstream during the test. Contrast allows the radiologist to better visualize certain structures in the body in order to make a diagnosis. Prior to the administration of contrast, patients are carefully screened to ensure that there are no risk factors present that may have the potential to cause an adverse reaction from the contrast media. It is important that patients disclose any serious health problems or if they have recently had surgery. Some conditions, such as severe kidney disease may prevent patients from being given contrast material for an MRI.


The contrast material used for an MRI exam, called gadolinium (Gad), is very safe. Adverse reactions are therefore rare; however, we must be thorough in our screening to keep patients safe.


MRI and Pregnancy

Women should always inform their physician or technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant. MRI has been used for scanning patients since the 1980's with no reports of any ill effects on pregnant women or their babies. However, because the baby will be in a strong magnetic field, pregnant women should not have this exam unless the potential benefit from the MRI is assumed to outweigh the potential risks.



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