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First-Time MRI Scan: Essential Preparation Tips for a Smooth Experience

First-Time MRI Scan: Essential Preparation Tips for a Smooth Experience
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When most people receive the news from their doctor that they need an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan, it sounds scary. You may be new to this and scared of the experience or the results.

However, an MRI scan is a painless process that only demands stillness for a short time. Being nervous is normal, and most radiographers will try to walk you through each process, carefully explaining each step to make you comfortable.

MRIs generate three-dimensional images of organs and tissues within your body. They help health practitioners identify issues that affect soft tissues, such as joint injuryor disease, damaged ligaments, and tumours.

This post will provide preparation tips to help you with your first MRI scan. We’ll discuss what you must do before and after your appointment for the best possible results.

How to prepare for your first MRI scan

Once your doctor recommends an MRI exam, you must take the necessary preparation steps. You should do the following: 

Be open with your doctor

The doctor who recommends an MRI scan needs to know everything about you, including any medications you take and conditions you may suffer or have suffered from.

Some medical conditions require your specific procedure to be modified. Here is a list of things you should mention if it affects you:

  • Pregnancy
  • History of kidney problems
  • Implanted drug device such as an insulin pump
  • Pacemaker
  • Cochlear implants
  • Past bullet wounds
  • History of diabetes
  • Have metal implants

If you have claustrophobia, inform your doctor so that they can recommend a type of MRI that will work for you.

Book an appointment

Booking a scan, whether ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan, is not entirely easy, especially with the increasing demand. However, there are marketplaces such as GetScanned that connect scanning centres with patients.

You only need to enter your postcode and the type of scan you want. You will get a list of available options and choose the one suitable for your needs.

Research and understand MRI scans

The internet will always give you an answer to any question. Research MRIs and find out what to expect. An MRI scan results in detailed images of your body without X-rays, surgery, or harmful dyes.

It mainly uses radio waves from powerful magnets to produce a detailed image of the targeted area. There are various types of MRIs, including:

Open MRI

The open MRI was developed to help scan claustrophobic and obese patients. Open MRIs require the patient to lie down but do not completely enclose them. 

Open MRI near me

Research local facilities with open MRI scanners if you need one for a more comfortable experience if you have claustrophobia or mobility concerns. 

As a bridge, GetScanned assists you in locating options that meet your individual needs and location. Our platform's accessibility and ease of use guarantee a flawless experience.

Cost of Open MRI near me

Depending on the body part being scanned and the location of the scan, a single MRI scan in the UK can cost anywhere from £200 to £1,500. An open MRI typically costs less than a closed MRI. 

Traditional MRI

The traditional MRI consists of an enclosed tube where the patient lies. It produces relatively high-quality images, but patients can sometimes feel uncomfortable. A traditional MRI requires you to remain still since moving makes scanning impossible.

Sitting or standing MRI 

MRIs have developed over the years to provide more comfort for patients. Despite the level of comfort standing or sitting MRIs offer, they don’t provide the same level of high-quality images as other MRI types.

Eat and take medications normally, if any

The great news is that an MRI will work even with a heavy breakfast. Before getting an MRI, there are no medications, food, or drink restrictions.

Unless your doctor or radiographer tells you otherwise, follow your normal eating and medication schedule on the day of your scan. 

Prepare all your documents

You cannot get an MRI if you don’t provide your doctor’s prescription unless you are a private patient on self-referral. Prepare documents such as your insurance card, safety sheet, patient information sheet, and driver’s licence.

Leave your jewellery at home

Taking out any metal things from your body is crucial because the MRI scanner generates powerful magnetic fields. Among them are watches jewellery, such as necklaces and rings, noses, breasts, and earrings, among other piercings, dentures, hearing aids, and wigs (some wigs have metal traces). 

While it's advisable to avoid bringing valuables to your scan, if you must, they can typically be kept in a locked locker. During the procedure, you might be required to wear a hospital gown, depending on the area of your body that is being scanned. 

Arrive early

Get to your radiographer’s clinic approximately 15 minutes early or more. You’ll need time to complete the paperwork and change into a hospital gown. The procedure typically lasts 15-45 minutes without physical side effects.

What should I avoid before an MRI Scan?

Now that we’ve looked at what you need to do to prepare for an MRI let us discuss the main things you should avoid before the procedure:

  • Don’t get a new piercing: A new piercing that hasn’t healed properly can begin to close up during the MRI quickly. If you want to avoid losing a fresh piercing, avoid getting one a few weeks before your appointment.
  • Don’t disregard your doctor’s instructions: Doctors advise you about an MRI depending on your medical history and current health status. They have no reason to lie and often advise you on remaining safe.

If a doctor asks you to take a new medication, stop a prescription, or take precautions during an MRI, do as they say.

Can I wear a bra during an MRI Scan?

Wearing bras is not prohibited during an MRI as long as the bra does not have any metal parts on the straps. This can throw off the magnetic field and interfere with the images produced.

Sports bras, or those with clasps, are usually good. You can also change into a hospital gown if necessary.

What to expect while having an MRI scan

When you finally meet with your radiographer, they will instruct you on how the procedure will go. Here are some things you are likely to expect:

Changing into a loose hospital gown

For better results, it is best to go into the MRI machine wearing light clothing without any metal. The MRI operator or caregiver will provide you with something to change into and a place to store your belongings.

Getting into the MRI machine

The closed MRI machine is currently the most popular and effective way of getting a scan. It produces high-quality images that doctors can quickly analyse and draw conclusions about your problem.

The closed MRI is large, hollow, and cylindrical-shaped. A circular magnet surrounds the tube. The bed you will be lying on inside the scanner is motorised and can be moved. 

Depending on whatever portion of your body is being scanned, you will enter the scanner head or foot first. A frame might occasionally be positioned over the body portion being scanned, like the head or chest.

This frame can aid in producing a higher-quality image since it has receivers that detect the signals your body sends out throughout the scan. The MRI scanner is operated by a computer and is housed in a separate room to protect it from the magnetic field it creates.

The radiographer will also be in a separate room from you, as they are the ones who run the computer. However, during the scan, they will always be able to see you through the viewing window and on a television monitor, and you will be able to communicate with them—typically via an intercom.

If you want, you can bring a friend or member of your family with you to the scan. Usually, parents can accompany their children. 

Anyone staying with you shouldn’t have any pacemakers or other metal objects in their body. The same rules pertaining to attire and removing metallic objects will also apply to them.

Contrast dye

An MRI with contrast helps highlight targeted parts of your soft tissue. The radiographer can combine radio waves and magnetic imaging using a contrast dye.

Unless your prescription requires it, you’re not guaranteed to get injected with contrast dye. The dye may be gadolinium, comprising rare earth materials that change the MRI image’s contrast.

If you are injected with a contrast dye through an IV in your arm, you may experience:

  • Brief headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Salty or metallic taste in your mouth
  • Feeling cold or getting a flushing sensation
  • Itching
  • Some other allergic reactions:
  • Hives
  • Rash
  • Shortness of breath

These effects are brief, and you’ll feel better soon after the procedure. In patients with serious renal failure, contrast agents may also cause harm to tissues and organs.

In order to assess your kidney function and determine whether the scan is safe to proceed with, you could be offered a blood test if you have a history of kidney disease. Before receiving the injection, you should inform the staff of any past allergic reactions or issues with blood coagulation.

Sedatives and anaesthesia

Anaesthesia, or a sedative, is typically not required for MRI scans because they are painless procedures.

However, if you experience claustrophobia, request a sedative to aid in your relaxation. It is advisable to visit your consultant well before the scan.

You won't be able to drive for 24 hours after taking a sedative during the scan, so you'll need to make plans for a friend or family member to take you home.

A general anaesthetic may be administered to infants and young children before an MRI scan. This is because, when they are awake, newborns and young children frequently find it difficult to remain motionless during the scan.

Expect noise

The MRI is loud, and this may make it difficult for some people to remain still. However, you must stay still to make the images clear and informative.

The noise results from the magnetic field generated as the magnets move around. You’ll also hear some loud banging in between scans. 

Before entering the machine, you can receive ear muffs or plugs to help reduce the noise. Additionally, you will have an alarm button to notify the technologist at any time during the exam if you experience any significant discomfort.

Typical duration

An MRI procedure typically takes 15-45 minutes, but this may depend on the complexity of your scan. People with special needs or suffering from certain conditions may take longer.

The entire process will take between 15 and 90 minutes, depending on the size of the area being scanned and the number of images taken.

What to do after your MRI scan

Once the procedure is complete, there’s not much you have to do. MRI scans are typically performed as outpatient procedures. 

This implies you will not have to spend the night in the hospital. You can get back to your regular activities right away after the scan.

The table will slide from the MRI machine, and the caregiver will help you get off the table.

When getting up, be careful and move slowly in case of any dizziness or lightheadedness from lying flat. The IV line inserted for contrast dye, if any, is removed, and you’re checked for any side effects.

You should inform your doctor if you get home and notice any swelling or redness where the IV was inserted. This could be an infection or reaction to the dye.

In most cases, driving home or going by your normal routine will be okay. 

But if you had to take a sedative, the MRI technologist would require you to rest until the effects wear off. You’ll also need someone else to drive you home.

Is it normal to experience fatigue following an MRI?

You may experience a bit of fatigue or nothing at all after magnetic resonance imaging. It all depends on how the procedure was carried out and whether you need to take something to help you through it.

If you had to receive a contrast dye or take a sedative, you would likely experience some slight effects, such as fatigue, afterwards. However, these effects only last for a while.

How long does it take to get MRI results?

With the NHS, the MRI exam results mainly take 1 to 2 weeks to reach you or the doctor who prescribed it. However, private scanning centres can provide your results within a few days.

The radiologist has to review and interpret the images, which may take some time, especially if your scan reveals an unusual or complex condition.

Other factors can determine how long it takes to get your results. For instance, the radiologist processes the results more quickly in an emergency.

MRIs for cancer staging, diagnosis, and treatment assessments take longer. This is because several medical specialists must review them.

There are possibly technical terms and details in your report. However, you can discuss your results with your care team. Please contact your referring provider to arrange a visit if you do not already have one scheduled.

Conclusion: Book your first MRI scan with ease today

An MRI procedure does not have to be a scary encounter. This painless procedure is mainly conducted to help improve a specific condition.

The preparation is simple, as there are no restrictions besides wearing anything metallic. The most critical thing is understanding and discussing your body with a health professional to determine if the procedure is right for you.

GetScanned is a marketplace that allows users to make appointments for MRI scans. We offer a secure and reliable way to get you the best solution. Book your MRI scan with us today!


Let’s address other frequently asked questions about MRI scan preparation. 

• How can I help prepare my child for an MRI scan?

Children who need an MRI scan will have instructions for an early arrival time sent to the responsible family member. The responsible family member will be notified if a paediatric patient needs anaesthesia and instructed to arrive sooner.

The patient must remain motionless for extended periods of time throughout an MRI test. Your child can view movies during their MRI procedure if your care team can offer them CinemaVision goggles that are suitable for MRIs. 

Patients are able to bring a movie from home or select one from the selection that is provided. Children can stay calm and comfortable while watching an enjoyable movie, reducing the need for anaesthetics.

• Can I get an MRI on my period?

Yes. It is possible to have an MRI while on your period. However, you should take some things into account before getting an MRI when you're on your period. 

It's likely that your blood flow will increase during your menstrual cycle. That's when your brain becomes overactive and starts to send hormone signals. 

It becomes challenging to visualise the brain and spine in such a situation, particularly if you have a history of epilepsy that increases blood flow.

Additionally, you may not have enough blood in your body to do an accurate MRI, and you also experience severe bleeding during the first two days of your menstrual phase.

Lastly, If you have a heavy or irregular menstrual cycle, you should consider the challenges of manoeuvring into the tube and maintaining that position for an extended period. Here, discomfort is undoubtedly a problem!

• Can I put on deodorant for an MRI?

Deodorants are cool but don't work well with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Most deodorants contain aluminium and other metals. 

It is advisable to avoid wearing deodorants, antiperspirants, perfumes, or body lotions right before the scan because the MRI machines are magnetised. These products have metals that could interfere with the MRI machine's magnetic field, resulting in distorted images and inaccurate results.

• Can I shower before an MRI?

You can shower before your MRI scan unless your doctor instructs you differently. But you should refrain from using hair treatments, such as gels or sprays, as some contain metals that could impede your MRI test.

• What happens if I move during an MRI?

During the scan, you must remain perfectly still; otherwise, the images may appear grainy. You might need to be sedated if you are having trouble staying still, if you have claustrophobia, or if you have chronic discomfort.