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Brain MRI Scan

Experiencing persistent or unusual headaches can be frustrating and concerning. A brain MRI might be the solution you need to find relief. This advanced imaging test offers valuable insights into the underlying causes of your head pain, helping your doctor tailor the most effective treatment plan for you.

Why would a doctor order an MRI of the brain?

Headaches are common, but certain symptoms may indicate a more serious condition. Here are the red flags that warrant a head MRI:

  • Sudden, Severe Headache: Described as the "worst headache of your life." This warrants urgent medical attention. 
  • Neurological Symptoms: Accompanied by weakness, numbness, vision changes, or speech difficulties. This warrants urgent medical attention.
  • Persistent Headaches: Especially if they progressively worsen over time.
  • Worsening When Lying Down: Headaches that intensify when lying down or upon waking, suggesting increased intracranial pressure or space-occupying lesions.
  • Headaches with Seizures: New or unexplained seizures alongside headaches. This requires urgent medical attention. 
  • Post-Head Injury: Persistent or severe headaches following trauma. This requires urgent medical attention. 
  • New Onset After Age 50: Particularly with no prior history of headaches.
  • Mental Status Changes: Confusion, personality changes, or cognitive impairments. This requires urgent medical attention.
  • Accompanying Fever, Neck Stiffness, or Rash: Could indicate an infection like meningitis. This requires urgent medical attention. 
  • In Individuals with Cancer or HIV: Higher risk for brain infections and tumors. This requires urgent medical attention. 
  • Neurological Symptoms: Dizziness accompanied by other neurological symptoms such as blurred vision, numbness or weakness in limbs, speech difficulties, or confusion.
  • Underlying Health Conditions: If you have known health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, or a history of cancer that may increase the risk of neurological complications.

These signs highlight the need for a brain MRI to rule out or diagnose serious conditions.

How a Head MRI Scan Can Help Identify the Cause of Your Head Pain?

Persistent or unusual headaches can significantly impact your quality of life. Understanding the root cause of your head pain is crucial to finding effective relief. A brain MRI is a powerful diagnostic tool that can provide detailed images of your brain, offering critical insights into what might be causing your headaches.

Can a Brain MRI Explain Reasons for Your Unusual Headaches?

By going beyond the typical migraine diagnosis, a brain MRI can offer critical insights into various conditions, guiding your doctor toward the most effective treatment for your specific situation. Here are some potential issues a brain MRI can identify:

  • Brain Tumours: Detects both benign and malignant growths that might be causing pressure and pain.
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS): Reveals lesions in the brain that are indicative of MS, a condition known for causing chronic pain.
  • Infections: Identifies brain infections such as abscesses or meningitis that might present as severe headaches.
  • Hydrocephalus: Detects excess fluid in the brain, which can cause pressure and chronic head pain.
  • Sinus Issues: These may reveal sinus blockages or infections that can lead to headaches.
  • Structural Abnormalities: Detects any congenital or acquired abnormalities in the brain's structure that might contribute to headache symptoms.

A brain MRI could provide a comprehensive view, helping to pinpoint the exact cause of your headaches and allowing for targeted and effective treatment.

What Does an MRI of the Brain show?

Some of the key things a brain MRI can show include:

Abnormal Brain Tissue

MRI can detect abnormalities in the brain's gray and white matter, including measures of cortical thickness and gray matter volume. This allows the diagnosis of conditions like tumors, cysts, infections, or other lesions.

Damage from Injury or Stroke

Brain MRI can identify areas of damage caused by traumatic brain injury, stroke, or other vascular problems. It can show bleeding, inflammation, or tissue death.

Structural Abnormalities

MRI can reveal problems with the brain's structure, such as hydrocephalus (excess fluid in the brain), malformations, or developmental abnormalities.

Neurodegenerative Diseases

MRI can help diagnose neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, or multiple sclerosis by detecting changes in brain tissue over time.

Blood Vessel Problems

Brain MRI, especially angiography (MRA), can identify issues with blood vessels, such as aneurysms, arteriovenous malformations, or atherosclerosis.

What to Expect During the Scan?

Before undergoing a brain MRI scan, it's important to follow certain guidelines to ensure a smooth and successful procedure. 

Here's a checklist to help you prepare:

  • Remove Metal Objects: Take off jewelry, watches, hearing aids, and any other metal objects.
  • Check for Implants: Inform the MRI technician if you have metal implants, pacemakers, cochlear implants, or any other metal or electronic devices in your body. Some implants may not be MRI-compatible.
  • Wear Comfortable Clothing: Wear loose-fitting clothing without metal fasteners or opt for a hospital gown provided by the facility.
  • Avoid Metallic Clothing: Do not wear clothes with metallic threads or accessories.
  • Discuss Claustrophobia: If you are claustrophobic, talk to your doctor about options such as sedatives or open MRI machines.
  • Follow Eating and Drinking Instructions: Follow any specific instructions regarding food and drink. Generally, there are no restrictions, but some cases may vary.
  • Medication: Continue to take prescribed medications unless otherwise instructed by your doctor.

By following this checklist, you can help ensure a safe and efficient MRI scan. Always consult your healthcare provider or the MRI facility if you have any specific questions or concerns before the procedure.

How Long Does an MRI Scan Take?

The duration of a brain MRI scan typically ranges from 15 minutes to 1 hour, depending on several factors:

  • Type of MRI: Whether it's a routine scan or includes special sequences or contrast dye.
  • Extent of Imaging: The number of images or slices needed to capture the entire brain area.
  • Patient Factors: Factors such as patient cooperation, ability to remain still, and specific conditions requiring additional scan time.


If you're experiencing persistent head pain or symptoms that warrant further investigation, don't delay—schedule a brain MRI with GetScanned today. Avoid long NHS wait times and get the answers you need quickly.

Take control of your health with GetScanned—book your brain MRI now for fast, accurate results and start your journey toward relief and recovery!

Lorea content writter
Reviewed by
Dr. Sachin Shah
Clinical Lead
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Frequently asked questions

Do I need a GP-referral?

No prior GP-referral is required. Booking with us includes a GP phone consultation and referral. Shortly after booking you will be contacted by a GP from our team who will discuss your scan and provide a referral.

How long is an MRI scan?

MRI scans generally take a bit longer than other types of scans. Individual scans take 10-30 minutes depending on the body part being scanned, overall it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 90 minutes. You do have to lay very still for an MRI and if there is movement the scan may need to be repeated which can add some additional time.

What’s included in my booking?

With your GetScanned booking, you will receive:

  • A pre-scan phone consultation with a member of our medical team.
  • A referral for the scan.
  • Scheduling of a private MRI scan at your preferred scanning centre.
  • Access to your written report by a radiologist.
  • Access to your scan images (online and downloadable).

How much is a private MRI scan?

A private MRI scan cost varies depending on the part of the body being scanned and the location the scan is performed. Generally, a private MRI scan in the UK starts at around £350, and includes the scheduling, scan itself and results.

What’s the difference between an open and closed MRI?

Closed MRI machines are the traditional and first type of MRI. They are used more frequently because they provide higher quality images, however they aren’t ideal for certain types of scan or when the patient has limited mobility. Open or wide-bore MRI machines don’t involve lying in a tight cylinder, instead they have wider openings with more space and are therefore considered better if you suffer from claustrophobia. A standing MRI or upright MRI is a new type of open MRI that allows the patient to be in various different positions, including weight bearing positions. If you would prefer an open MRI please filter by MRI type to find an open MRI near you, but please be aware it is only available at certain locations.

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