Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

What is Magnetic Resonance Imaging?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is an imaging technique that uses magnetic fields and radiofrequency waves to acquire very detailed images of the body.

MRI equipment acquires data and produces images of extraordinarily fine detail. The level of detail obtained allows the body part being scanned to be imaged in multiple directions and views including 3D.

MRI scans are only performed through the area of interest not the entire body.

Preparation – What to do before a MRI scan

Due to necessary safety precautions when making your appointment please inform our secretarial staff if you have:

  • A pacemaker
  • Stents in your arteries
  • A neurostimulator
  • Vascular pump
  • AAA repair
  • Cerebral aneurysm clips
  • History of welding or having metal fragments in your eyes

Further to initial safety questions completed when making your booking you must complete a safety screening and detailed medical history upon presentation to the MRI department.

Due to the specificity and detail of imaging provided by MRI, scanning protocols for any given body part may vary in accordance with clinical symptoms or causal events. For this reason additional information on your signs and symptoms may also be required prior to your scan.

For most MRI scans there is no further preparation required. However, our staff will advise you of any specific instructions when you make your appointment.

It is important to closely follow any preparation advice given.  All instructions are aimed at ensuring you receive a safe and accurate examination. At the time of booking please advise our staff of any medical conditions that may contraindicate standard preparation instructions or even the test itself.

If you take regular medication you should continue to take it unless otherwise advised.

If you are a diabetic please ensure booking staff are made aware of this when you are making your appointment as variations in preparation instructions or booking times may be required to accommodate your needs.

If you are pregnant it is imperative to advise our staff of this when booking your appointment.

For head scans please refrain from wearing eye makeup where possible.

For all examinations we ask that you bring along any previous imaging you have of the area under investigation or that may have relevance to your signs and symptoms.

At Southern Radiology we require a written referral or request before undertaking any medical imaging examinations. Please ensure you bring your referral with you to your appointment.

Bring your Medicare card for billing purposes.

The procedure – What happens during your appointment and scan?

The exact procedure for any medical imaging examination depends on what is being imaged and why.

Although there will be slight variations in what you can expect when you attend your MRI appointment, as a general guideline:

  • You will need to register with our secretarial staff upon arrival
  • You will be required to fill out essential safety and medical history paperwork before we can commence your scan
  • You will be asked to empty your pockets and remove any objects considered unsafe by the radiographer before entering the scan room. You will be given access to a secure locker for these items
  • You may be asked to remove dentures and dental plates
  • You may be asked to remove body piercings and jewelry
  • You may be asked to change into a gown
  • You may require an intravenous contrast injection – if this is required  one of our radiographers or nurses will insert a vascular cannula in a vein in your arm  prior to your scan
  • You may require an intra articular contrast injection if the body part under investigation is a joint. This contrast agent is usually administered by the radiologist under ultrasound guidance
  • For the MRI scan you will be asked to lie on a table and a device specifically designed to read the MR signal will be placed around the body part being scanned. The radiographer will then give you earplugs or headphones to wear for your scan (as it is quite noisy) and a buzzer to hold in your hand should you need to attract attention.
    You will be moved into the MRI machine for your scan. The MRI is a “tube” shaped unit that is open at both ends. The area being scanned will be moved into the centre of this unit. Your head may be inside or outside of the tube depending on the area being scanned.
    When the scan begins the machine will make a series of very loud knocking and banging noises. These noises will last for a few minutes at a time and are indicative of when the scan data is being acquired. It is very important that you keep still throughout the scan, particularly when the machine is making these noises. The radiographer will watch you and be in contact with you throughout your scan.
  • Your attending radiographer will explain and discuss all aspects of your scan with you prior to your examination. Your consent will be sought prior to commencing any part of the procedure
  • After the completion of your scan you may be asked to remain on site for at least 15 minutes if you have had intravenous contrast
  • You will be given your MRI scan films at the end of your appointment. Your examination report will then be sent to your referring doctor

Appointment length – How long can I expect to be at Southern Radiology?

Your appointment includes the time it takes to:

  • register your details
  • complete important safety and medical history paperwork
  • complete  necessary preparation steps
  • complete the scan
  • collect your films

Scan times on average total 30 minutes per scanned region. However, in order to allow for pre- procedural steps as well as aftercare, as a general rule, we advise you to allow an hour for your appointment.

For examinations with additional preparation or aftercare our staff will advise you of any further time requirements.

Is it safe?

MRI does not use ionising radiation and is not known to have any harmful effects for patients that can safely enter the magnetic field.

Magnetic fields of the strength used in MRI scanning are contraindicated for some patients. The implantation of some medical prostheses can make entry into the magnetic field unsafe. Metal foreign objects can also cause unsafe conditions. At Southern Radiology all persons are screened for safety before entry into the MRI room is permitted.

Radiofrequency waves used in MRI scanning are also considered safe with no known harmful effects.

Should you require intravenous contrast there is a small risk of allergic reaction. The possibility of reaction is minimised through our pre-procedure investigation of your medical history and existing conditions. Further to this, all our staff are trained in observing even the most minor signs of an allergic reaction as well as corrective actions. MRI scans are not performed without a medical doctor on site should any further assistance be required. Intravenous contrast is not given to anyone that is considered high risk.

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About

Southern Radiology is a leading diagnostic imaging provider who is committed to providing prompt and professional care to both patients and referrers. We are one of the largest medical imaging providers servicing the southern, inner western and eastern suburbs of Sydney and led by our specialist diagnostic imaging radiologists, Southern Radiology provides you comprehensive diagnostic support across all imaging modalities.

Our services include diagnostic radiology, interventional radiology, cardiac CT, magnetic resonance imaging, nuclear medicine and obstetric and gynaecological imaging. The Southern Radiology network consists of private community and hospital based practices, as well as two imaging research facilities.

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