What Is An MRI?

What Is An MRI?

Many people can find a magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, exam nerve-racking. Most traditional MRI machines are large, tube-shaped magnets that a patient lies inside. The magnetic field temporarily realigns hydrogen atoms in your body to make pictures of organs and structures inside the body by utilizing the magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy.

MRI scans are an extremely accurate method of detecting cancers and other diseases throughout the body. It is most often used to give doctors a more in-depth look at a patient’s body to correctly determine a diagnosis. The images it provides to doctors can give different information about structures in the body that can be seen with an X-ray, ultrasound or CT (computed tomography) scan.

How to Prepare for an MRI

Preparation for an MRI is rare as there is little or none needed before the procedure. The patient will change into a gown and be asked to remove all accessories like jewelry, credit cards or any metallic objects. MRIs involve magnets, and may interact with any objects a patient has, so to ensure the best results and images it is imperative to remember to leave these items at home or with secured with a loved one.

MRIs last anywhere from half an hour up to an hour and a half. Patients who are claustrophobic or do not do well in confined spaces should inform their doctor so necessary precautions can be taken to ensure that a patient is as relaxed as possible. Relaxation is key to a successful MRI exam. Patients may in some cases be given sedative medication to decrease anxiety and relax a patient during an MRI scan. The MRI scan requires that the patient lie as still as possible for an accurate image. Interaction with MRI technicians is maintained throughout the test. Patients will experience lying inside a closed environment while the machine scans the entire body. Often there are loud, repetitive clicks that a patient will hear during the exam. These are completely normal and will cease once the scanning ends. On some occasions patients require injections of liquid intravenously to enhance any images obtained.

Determining Factors

There are many factors that can determine if an MRI scan is right for you.

  • Location of the tumor
  • Tumor type; some imaging tests work better for certain organs or tissues
  • Whether or not a biopsy (tissue sample) is needed
  • Age
  • Gender,
  • Overall health
  • The balance between any risks or side effects and the expected benefits


Your healthcare team can recommend the tests that are right for you when determining how to best diagnose your cancer. At University Cancer Centers (UCC) you can be sure that the board-certified doctors and support staff are knowledgeable when it comes to MRI exams and more. Our facilities have state-of-the-art MRI machines and can best determine your diagnosis as well as create customized treatment plans. We are as dedicated to your recovery as you are.

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