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Washington Open MRI
Open MRI Appointments 1-866-MRI-ASAP (1-866-674-2727)
Staffed by local board certified radiologists to better serve our referring physician community


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Your Open MRI Exam

THE WASHINGTON OPEN MRI EXPERIENCE

The MRI exam is a simple and painless procedure. The MRI technologist or an assistant will position you in the Open MRI after you have changed into a gown. Once you are comfortable, usually with the aid of some pillows and/or pads, you and the scanning bed will be moved into the specially designed magnet. Because of the MRI system's wide open design, you'll be able to see nearly everything around you during your exam.

Your MRI exam will take about 45 minutes to complete. The MRI system makes very little noise while in operation. It is, however, important that you lie as still as possible during the Open MRI exam because any motion will affect the images being taken and may prevent the doctor from being able to make an accurate diagnosis. A family member may always sit with you during the Open MRI scan. This is especially important when your child comes to our facility with you either as our patient or just to be with you during your procedure.

A specially designed coil may be positioned around the part of the body to be examined. This is done to help the MRI system obtain more detailed analysis for review by your doctor. For some parts of the body, your doctor may ask us to use a special "contrast agent" to enhance the image of your Open MRI scan. Our Open MRI technologist is always available to answer any questions you may have.

All of us at Washington Open MRI do everything we can to make you comfortable during your Open MRI examination.


Frequently Asked Questions

Will The MRI Examination Hurt?

No, Open Magnetic Resonance imaging itself should cause no pain. MR imaging requires that the patient remain still during the examination. For some patients, keeping still for some time may be slightly uncomfortable.

Open MRI imaging examinations which require the patient to receive Gadolinium contrast may cause slight, temporary discomfort while the intravenous needle is placed (see below section "Do I need an injection of contrast for my Open MRI exam?").

How Long Does The Exam Take?

Most MRI centers offer a wide array of Magnetic Resonance (MR) imaging examinations. Depending on the type of exam you will receive, the length of the actual procedure will typically be between 15 and 45 minutes. A few involved MRI examinations take longer than 45 minutes. Also, some MR exams require the patient to hold their breath several times. This helps to eliminate blurring from the images, which can be caused by breathing or other patient motion. Please discuss specific questions about the duration of your MRI examination with the MR technologist before your exam.

Why does the MRI system make the knocking sound during the exam?

The tapping or knocking noise heard during the MR exam is created when "gradient coils" are switched on and off to measure the MRI signal reflecting back out of the patient's body. Depending on the type of study being performed and the sensitivity of the patient, the knocking may be loud enough to require ear plugst. Please discuss this with the technologist before your examination. During the MRI examination, the technologist and patient may sually communicate at any time via intercom or a call button.

The gradient coil is one of several internal parts of the MR system that you can not see. The gradient coil is made up of loops of wire which are embedded in a hard plastic tube. During the scanning process an electric current is switched on and off through the gradient coil approximately every few milliseconds. Because the switching is so rapid, the wires vibrate and cause the knocking sound. This knocking is not harmful but the sound can be intimidating to some patients. You will hear different knocking sounds during the MRI exam, this means that different types of "MRI sequences" are being run to acquire different views and images of your body.

Will Open MRI imaging affect the fillings in my teeth?

No, Open MRI imaging will not cause fillings in your teeth, if in proper condition, to dislodge or come out. The metal in most fillings is not affected by the MRI system's magnetic field. However, the fillings may cause some distortion of the images if you are having a scan of your neck, brain or facial area.

Can I have an MRI exam if I have braces on my teeth?

Patients with braces may receive an open MRI imaging examination. However, if you have braces and need MR imaging of your brain or facial area, the MRI system may have difficulty "tuning" to your body. The MRI tuning process is similar to tuning a radio to a specific frequency or radio station. This tuning process can be "confused" if the patient has metal in his or her body, particularly if the metal is in the area being imaged. Unfortunately, there is no way to know in advance how much distortion from braces may result on MRI images of the head, face or upper neck. Your MRI technologist will only be aware of any issues of this type during your scan, but this is an extremely rare problem.

Do I need a referral (prescription) to receive an Open MRI examination?

Yes, your doctor must give you a referral (prescription) in order for you to receive a Magnetic Resonance Imaging examination.

Can I move while I am being scanned?

You should not move when you are being scanned by the MRI machine and hear the knocking sound. For most MRI exams, you may reposition your arms or scratch your face or body in between image acquisition, when the knocking has stopped. If you have any questions during your MRI scan you can ask the MRI technologist as he/she is always monitoring your progress during your scan. However, It is important that you not move the body part being imaged until the entire exam is complete. During longer scans your MRI technologist may communicate with you to and inform you if you can move between scans to minimize any physical discomfort. Some MR exams of the chest and abdomen may require the patient to hold their breath for a short period of time, for example, 10 to 25 seconds. This eliminates blurring in the image caused by breathing or other patient motion.

Can I talk with anyone during the scan?

You may talk to the MRI technologist or ask a question in between image acquisition sequences when the knocking has stopped. You will know when a picture is complete because the knocking and slight vibration will stop.

Can I bring a friend or relative into the MRI scan room with me?

Of course! All people entering the MR scan room should be checked for metal in or on their body. This check includes the removal of cell phones, keys, coins, jewelry, watches, hairpins, hair clips, hearing aids, wallets, and credit cards or ID cards with magnetic strips (since the magnetic coding of these strips can be erased by the magnetic field). From a medical and safety standpoint, if your companion is checked and cleared to enter the MRI scan room, he or she may safely accompany you for the exam. Typically your companion will be seated in a chair next to the MR scanner.

Do I need an injection of contrast for my Open MRI exam?

Not everyone needs an injection for MRI imaging. When an injection is needed, a pharmaceutical contrast agent called Gadolinium is administered. This is only done when the radiologist and/or the referring physician have determined that it is necessary for diagnostic purposes. Gadolinium contrast is used to make specific organs, blood vessels or tissue types "stand out" with more image contrast in the resulting picture. This highlights the structure of the specific organs or vessel to better show the presence of disease or injury. The referring doctor provides the MRI imaging center with information about the patient's medical condition and the goal of the MRI imaging procedure being ordered (for example, to diagnose cause of intense back pain). The decision to use or not to use an injection of contrast (Gadolinium) is made based on this information and the body part being examined. For your safety a medical doctor or M.D. will either inject this contrast agent or supervise the injection and be readily available during your MRI scan.

How is the Gadolinium injection given for an Open MRI imaging exam?

If an MRI exam requires the use of a Gadolinium injection, a small needle connected to an intravenous line is usually inserted into the patient's arm or hand. Then typically, about two-thirds through the exam, a contrast agent called "Gadolinium" will be administered through the intravenous line. At the time of the injection, a patient may feel a cool or warm sensation going up his or her arm.

Can I have an MRI exam if I am pregnant?

This question is difficult to answer with a simple "yes" or "no." MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is considered a safe exam. Please consult with your doctor if you have any concerns prior to accepting a prescripton for an MRI exam.



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