Magnetic Resonance Imaging uses a powerful magnet and radio waves to create a highly detailed image of the soft tissue structures within the body. For instance, when you injured your elbow during the best tennis game of your life, your physician can use the MRI to determine the extent of the injury and the course of your treatment.
When you arrive at the MRI department you will be asked to fill out an MRI screening form. After review of this form and registration you will be brought to the dressing room, where you will be asked to remove your street clothes, watch, jewelry and any metal items. Lockers are available for use but any items that can be left at home should be left at home.
In addition to clothes with metal zippers, buttons or snaps, there are also manufacturers of clothing with metal fibers embedded (i.e.,Tommie copper). Because MRI scanners use a large magnet, metals can cause issues in a couple of ways, including being attracted to the scanner and be pulled in. Another issue is the metal can obscure the area that is being imaged, causing degraded quality and making it difficult for the radiologist to diagnosis the study. Orthopedic implants like knee or hip replacements do not pose an issue because they are non-ferromagnetic and the MRI scanners at HSS have special software to reduce the artifact caused by the metal to get clear images, thereby not affecting the diagnosis.
For patients that find it necessary to have their exams on a larger MRI scanner due to claustrophobia or other reasons, we can offer appointments in one of our bigger systems. We have two at the main hospital and one at HSS Long Island.
To start your exam you will be brought into the MRI suite, the technologist will review your safety form with you again and then you will be asked to lie down on the MRI table and positioned in an MRI coil. This coil will encase the area of your body that is being examined. The technologist will position you with cushions and pads for your comfort. As the exam starts you will notice the MRI scanner does make a good deal of noise, but your technologist can offer headphones and a choice of music and provide hearing protection. In addition to music, you have the option to ask for a blanket if you are cold in the MRI suite and an eye mask or mirrored glasses if you are nervous about being in the MRI scanner. Speak to the MRI technologist about your concerns and they can help to make you more comfortable during your exam.
Your contribution to the successful completion of the exam is to make sure you stay still for the imaging because just like any picture, motion will make it blurry and difficult to display fine detail.
Keep in mind the MRI department at HSS is dedicated to try our best to make your experience with us the best possible. Your exam protocol will be specifically tailored to meet your needs and customized for your specific problem.
Wendy Diesing is the Manager of the MRI department at Hospital for Special Surgery. She was a former Applications Specialist for GE Healthcare’s MRI division.