Me, Myself and MRI

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What happens when you go for your scan?

Unless your doctor has told you otherwise, there are no restrictions on what you can eat or drink before your scan and there isn't anything in particular that you need to do to prepare for your scan.

When you arrive to have your MRI scan you may be asked to change into medical scrubs or a gown. As the scanner uses a very powerful magnet, you will also be asked to remove all jewellery and any other metal objects, such as belt buckles, mobile phones, hair slides etc. Ladies are also asked to remove any make-up as it may contain tiny traces of metal that might interfere with the magnetic signal and affect the clarity of the images produced.
You can use the intercom to talk to the MRI technician at any point during your scan

When you enter the scan room you'll be asked to lie down and a member of staff will make sure you're as comfortable as possible, offering blankets and padding to support your limbs. You'll also be offered earplugs or headphones - the scanner can be very noisy and earplugs will protect your ears. Some facilities may also offer you the option of listening to music through headphones while you're inside the scanner.

Before you go into the scanner you'll be given a button that you can use to control the intercom. If you feel uncomfortable at any point during your scan or have any questions then you can use the intercom to talk to the MRI technician. They will also use the intercom to explain what's happening whilst you're in the scanner.

A scan can take between 15 - 60 minutes, depending on how many images are needed and on which part of the body is being scanned. You should be told beforehand how long you should expect it to last.

It's important to try and relax before and during your scan (one of our participants managed to fall asleep during their scan!). It's also important to try and stay as still as possible. If you're having a long scan then you might be allowed to move slightly between scan sequences - the MRI technician will use the intercom to tell you when you can move.

Once your scan is over you'll be asked to wait for a short while so that the images can be examined. This is to check whether any further images are needed (in which case you may have to go back into the scanner so that particular images can be captured). After this you'll be able to leave the scan facility and go back to work/school/home.

Following your scan, the images will be examined by a radiologist. The radiologist will prepare a report for your doctor who'll make an appointment with you to discuss the results of your scan.

The video below shows one of our participants, Christine Talbot, preparing for her brain scan. Many thanks to Calendar for giving us permission to use this footage. Please note that there is no audio with this clip.

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We asked all of the people who took part in our project to describe what it was like being inside the scanner and you can read what they told us on the next page...