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What is magnetic resonance imaging?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. MRI uses a powerful magnetic field, radio-frequency pulses and a high-tech computer to produce detailed pictures of organs, soft tissue, bone and virtually all other internal body structures. There is no exposure to radiation with an MRI, and it is among the safest and most versatile of imaging methods. Depending on the type of MRI exam, the procedure usually takes between 30 to 60 minutes. No recovery period is necessary. You may resume your usual activities and normal diet and medications immediately after the exam.

Before Your Exam

  • You will be asked to change into MRI scrubs. It is important to remove all metal or electronic items from clothing, hair and pockets.
  • Notify the technologist if you have any metal or electronic devices, such as pacemakers, stents, filters or screws, as they may interfere with the MRI scan and results.
  • If you are claustrophobic, please let us know.

How is an MRI performed?

For some exams ordered with contrast, an IV may be placed and contrast injected.

You will be positioned on a moveable exam table.

During the exam, you will hear tapping or thumping sounds when the radio-frequency pulses are activated. Earplugs or headphones will be provided to minimize noise.

The examination table will move into the MRI unit.

Devices called coils may be placed around the area of the body being studied.

After Your Exam

Results from the MRI scan will be sent to your ordering physician within 24 to 48 hours. Upon request, CDs or films can be provided following the exam.


Some exams require the injection of a contrast through an intravenous (IV) line. It does not contain iodine and is less likely to cause side effects or allergic reactions. For a small, very specific number of scans, it may be necessary to hold your breath.