During an MRI

The actual MRI or MRA isn't as scary as most people think.

What happens during an MRI exam.

During the actual procedure in most cases, the specialist will ask you to lie on your back on a table that is part of the MRI scanner. Your head, chest, and arms may be held with straps to help you remain still. The table will slide into the space that contains the magnet.

A device called a coil may be placed over or wrapped around the area to be scanned. A special belt strap may be used to sense your breathing or heartbeat. This triggers the machine to take the scan at the right time. If an IV will be needed for the test, this will have been inserted into your body by now as well.

It is customary that the MRI staff will be nearby during MRI scan. There are a number of ways to communicate with the staff during the test. Sometimes you can hold a buzzer to contact the staff so you don’t have to talk or move your head. In most cases the specialist will be able to talk to you via an intercom and in some cases you will be able to talk back without affecting the scan.

Your table will then be slid into the large round tube that contains the magnet. When you are positioned inside the scanner you will hear a fan and feel air moving. You may also hear tapping or snapping noises as the MRI scans are taken. Earplugs or headphones with music are often given to reduce the noise. It is very important to hold completely still while the scan is being done. You will not have pain from the magnetic field or radio waves used for the MRI test.

During the test you may be asked to hold your breath for short periods of time. You will most likely be alone in the scanner room, but the technologist will watch and monitor you through a window. You will be able to talk with them through a two-way intercom if needed.

If contrast material is needed for your test, the technologist will send it through the intravenous (IV) line in your arm. You may feel some coolness and flushing as it is put into your IV. In rare cases, you may feel a tingling feeling in the mouth if you have metal dental fillings or warmth in the area being examined. These are both normal. Tell the technologist if you have nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, pain, burning, or breathing problems. The material may be given over 1 to 2 minutes.

An MRI test usually takes 30 to 60 minutes but can take as long as 2 hours and are usually done as an outpatient procedure, which means you can go home right after the test is completed. However, if you are given any medicine to help you relax, you need to arrange for someone to drive you home after the test.

The MRI and MRA experience:

Before the MRI
During the MRI
After the MRI


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IMPORTANT: The information on this page, and throughout the entire site, is not intended to provide advice or treatment for a specific situation. Consult your physician and medical team for information and treatment plans on your specific condition(s). Images are shown for illustrative purposes. Do not attempt to draw conclusions or make diagnoses by comparing these image to other medical images, particularly your own.

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