If you are booked in for an MRI, you’ll likely have a few preconceptions about the process. Others will have a million and one questions whizzing around their head—ultimately leading to way more anxiety and worry than is needed.
To put your mind at ease, here are five facts you should know before an MRI.
1. Only wear light cotton
Depending on the clinic, you may be required to remove all your clothing before the scan. You’ll be provided with a hospital gown to wear so that the MRI machine can scan the body to create the images it needs. Some materials can interfere with this process, so it’s often recommended that you arrive in loose and light clothing such as cotton.
2. You have to stay still
An MRI scan can take anywhere between 15 and 90 minutes, depending on the complexity of the images needed. During this time, you’ll be asked to stay as still as possible, so as not to distort the images being created. Of course, in a new surrounding and with lots going on around you, it can be difficult to not move. Just try to ignore any itches or sudden urges to move if you can.
Most clinicians will provide a padded seat for your head or for the area being scanned. This will provide support and will also make it easier to keep still.
It’s worth mentioning though, that gentle movements caused by breathing shouldn’t impact the results. In a CT scan, patients are often told to not breathe during the X-ray, but this isn’t the case with an MRI.
3. It can be pretty loud
If it’s your first time, you’ve probably heard about other people’s experiences with MRIs. The scanning machines are renowned for being quite noisy, which can be intimidating if you’re not prepared.
When you arrive for the appointment, you’ll be provided with ear plugs or headphones to use. Most clinics will allow you to bring a CD or music device that can be played in order to drown out the noise of the machine.
4. You don’t always need a referral
Although the most common way to get an MRI is through a referral from your GP or specialist, there are actually private clinics that offer these scans without one. We all experience medical anxiety from time to time, but if you’re having persistent worries about a particular issue, you can book yourself in for an MRI yourself. Brands such as Express MRI offer affordable scans that can help bring peace of mind if you’re worried about your joints, muscles, brain, or detecting cancer.
5. You’re completely safe
There are plenty of horror stories about MRIs and other diagnostic machines, but these are generally myths. MRI machines are scary due to the noise and confined space in which they take place, but other than that you’re completely safe. In fact, MRIs are one of the safest procedures available. Even with contrast MRIs—which are known to be damaging to the kidneys—generally, have no side effects or impact on the body.
MRIs can be scary, but by preparing yourself with as much information as you can before you get there, you should feel nothing but safe. A few nerves here and there are totally normal, and your clinician will do all they can to make you feel more comfortable.