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Medical Imaging

MRI > What to Expect


  1. On the day of your exam, please arrive on time. In order to allow time for registration and processing of paperwork, the appointment time you are given is 30 minutes prior to your actual appointment.
  2. You must check in and register with our clerical staff. A valid Ontario Health Card, and if available, a St. Michael's Hospital card are required for registration.
  3. If you have had X-rays or scans (or any exams on compact discs) to diagnose this same or similar problem at another facility, please make sure you bring them with you. These films or scans will be kept for reporting and then mailed back to the hospital of origin.
  4. Note that emergency patients or equipment failures may result in a delay or rescheduling of your appointment.


  1. After registration, if you wish, you can watch a patient information video.
  2. You will be asked to change into a hospital gown and remove any jewelry and metallic objects.
  3. At this time, you can take any medication that was prescribed by your physician. If you have a condition that requires you to take medication on a regular basis, you should keep to your regular medication schedule.
  4. Lockers are provided for secure lock up of your clothing and valuables.
  5. When it is time for your examination, a technologist will escort you to the scan room.
  6. Some examinations of the abdomen require special preparation; your physician will give you details specific to your exam.

About the Procedure

  1. The technologist will go over the MRI screening form with you, explain the procedure and answer any questions that you might have.
  2. You will be provided with ear plugs to help reduce the loud humming and thumping sounds which are produced during the scanner's operation. You will then be escorted into the scan room.
  3. The scan room has a large doughnut-shaped magnet with a padded table that moves you into the centre of the machine once you are positioned. Whether or not you go into the machine head first or feet first, as well as how far in you go, is determined by the type of exam being performed. In some cases a special piece of equipment called a surface coil, which is like a radio antenna, is placed on or wrapped around the body part that is being imaged.
  4. The scanner is equipped with an emergency assistance alarm button, a two-way intercom for communication with the technologist and one of our scanners has a camera for patient monitoring by the technologist.
  5. It is very important that you remain relaxed and try not to move during the scan. Even very slight movement of the part being scanned can cause distorted images that will have to be repeated. For some exams you may be asked to hold your breath for 10-30 seconds as the pictures are taken.

Length of Scan

  1. The exam consists of several different scans that vary in length and the type of sound they produce.
  2. Most exams take 30 to 45 minutes, but there are a few that take one to two hours.
  3. Some exams may also require the injection of a contrast agent called Gadolinium. This contrast agent is a colorless fluid, which is injected into a vein in your arm. The contrast agent is very safe; its purpose is to make details in the MRI images clearer and is standard for some types of examinations.
  4. If you require a contrast injection, the technologist will take you out of the scanner and inject it into a vein in your arm. The technologist will then return you to your original position in the scanner.
  5. Since we need the images before and after the injection to match, it is important that you do not move while the contrast medium is being administered.
  6. Some examinations of the abdomen require special preparation; your physician will give you details specific to your exam.
  7. Each MRI scan is individualized and tailored to each patient's needs. If you have had an MRI scan before, do not be concerned if this one is longer or shorter.

After the Exam

  1. You will feel no after-effects upon completion of the study and may resume normal activity.
  2. It is recommended that you have someone accompany you if you will be taking medication for claustrophobia as you may feel groggy for an extended period of time and you will not be permitted to drive.
  3. After the exam, the radiologist and technologist will review the images to ensure diagnostic quality. If the quality is acceptable, you can go home. If more images are needed, they will usually be taken right away.

MRI Report

  1. Your scan will be reviewed by a radiologist.
  2. The MRI report will be sent to your physician, who will schedule an appointment to discuss the results with you.