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An MRI (or magnetic resonance imaging) scan is a type of scan that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the body structure. An MRI scanner is a large tube that contains powerful magnets. It’s open on both sides to let light and air through.
An MRI scan can be used to examine almost any part of the body, including the:
• Brain and spinal cord
• Bones and joints
• Internal organs such as Liver, Womb or Prostate Gland
The results of an MRI scan can be used to help diagnose conditions, plan treatments and assess how effective previous treatment has been.
WHAT DOES THE PROCEDURE ENTAIL?
During an MRI scan, you lie on a flat bed that’s moved into the scanner. Depending on the part of your body being scanned, you will be moved into the scanner either head first or feet first. The MRI scanner is operated by a radiographer, who is trained in carrying out imaging investigations. They control the scanner using a computer, which is in a different room, to keep it away from the magnetic field generated by the scanner. You will be able to talk to the radiographer through an intercom and they will be able see you through a window to monitor the procedure. At certain times during the scan, the scanner will make loud tapping noises. This is the electric current in the scanner coils being turned on and off. You will be given earplugs or headphones to wear. It is very important to keep as still as possible during the MRI scan. The actual scan time may take between 15 to 40 minutes, depending on the area being scanned and how many images are taken.
HOW DO I PREPARE FOR AN MRI SCAN?
As it is a magnetic system, patients must remove any metallic objects – rings, studs, etc. Patients who have any metallic materials within the body must notify their physician prior to the examination or inform the MRI staff. Metallic chips, materials, surgical clips, or foreign material (artificial joints, metallic bone plates, or prosthetic devices, etc.) can significantly distort the images obtained by the MRI scanner. Patients who have heart pacemakers, metal implants, or metal chips or clips in or around the eyeballs cannot be scanned with an MRI because of the risk that the magnet may move the metal in these areas. Similarly, patients with artificial heart valves, metallic ear implants, bullet fragments, and chemotherapy or insulin pumps should not have MRI scanning.
ARE THERE ANY RISKS?
An MRI scan is a painless and safe procedure. You may find it uncomfortable if you have claustrophobia, but most people find this manageable with support from the radiographer. Going into the scanner feet first may be easier, although this is not always possible. MRI scans don’t involve exposing the body to X-ray radiation. This means people who may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of radiation, such as pregnant women and babies, can use them if necessary.
Please inform us beforehand if any of the following applies to you:
• Cardiac Pacemakers
• Cochlear implants or hearing aids
• Stimulators of any sort
• Metal plates
We have access to 9 MRI units: three at LIFE Groenkloof Hospital, one of which is a 3 Tesla; another 3 Tesla MRI unit at SEMLI (UP High Performance Centre); two at LIFE Wilgers Hospital; and MRI units at LIFE Faerie Glen Hospital, LIFE Eugene Marais Hospital and Zuid Afrikaans Hospital. Our latest MRI unit at LIFE Groenkloof Hospital has Inter-operative MRI functionality for very specialized imaging for patients still in the Theatre.