MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. It is a painless, non-invasive procedure that creates detailed images of the inside of your body with a scanner that uses a strong magnetic field.
MRI scans can image bone as well as show soft tissue areas of your body. They are often used to examine joints, because they can show injured tendons, ligaments, muscles, cartilage and bone marrow. Your scan will help Mr. Cole decide whether your injury needs surgery.
In some instances, the area that Mr. Cole wishes to investigate will be injected with a special dye called a contrast agent. This will help make the scan clearer and assist Mr. Cole in his assessment.
Although MRI is completely harmless for most people, anyone who may have metal clips in their head or a pacemaker in their bodies will not be able to have a scan. Mr. Cole and your radiographer will discuss this with you in detail prior to your scan.
The scanner itself resembles a short tunnel which is open at both ends. The scan involves lying on a bed that moves through the scanner. Most scans take 15 to 30 minutes, although some can last as long as one hour.
Having an MRI scan
A routine MRI scan of the shoulder takes about 40 minutes and sometimes a little longer if special views are required. Once you are referred for a scan, the radiology department will contact you to arrange a time that is convenient for you to attend. If other investigations such as x-rays are being arranged as well it will often be possible get these done at the same time.
When you arrive for your scan you will be shown to a changing room to get into a light gown and then taken through to the scanner. The MRI scan is undertaken with you lying on your back. You will be asked to lie down on a sliding couch which will be used to position you inside the scanning tube. You may be surprised at how noisy an MRI scanner is when it is in operation. Even so, you will be able to listen to some music while the MRI is underway. There is a wide choice of music available, or you may bring your own CD. The radiographer will be in constant contact with you, letting you know how the scan is progressing, and you will be able to speak to her at any stage.
Some patients do find the prospect of a scan quite daunting, particularly the idea of being confined in an enclosed space. If you are concerned about this don't be embarrassed - you are certainly not the only one. We would be happy to arrange for you to have a look at the scanner before your appointment so that you can see what will be involved. Sometimes a light sedative, which your GP can prescribe, can help if you feel unsure about tolerating the scan. You will need to take this an hour or so before your scan and you should arrange for someone to accompany you and drive you home afterwards. Open scanners are available for those with serious problems of claustrophobia but the quality of the imaging may not be as good.
We will need to know if you have any metal implants or clips in place, perhaps from previous operations. These will probably not present a problem, particularly if they were put in some time ago, but MRI scanning may not be advisable with certain implants such as some heart valves or with clips in specific places such as the brain. It is also important to know if you might have any metal fragments in your eyes, perhaps from engineering work. If there is any doubt, the radiographers can easily run some precautionary images of the eyes.
It is vitally important to know if you have a pacemaker in place. The very strong magnetic fields used in MRI scanning can stop a pacemaker from working.
MRI scanning is very safe. Unlike x-rays and CT scans, MRI scans do not use radiation. World wide there has been an enormous experience of MRI scanning over many years and we can be confident that MRI does not have any harmful effects. Nonetheless, as a precaution we prefer to avoid undertaking an MRI scan during pregnancy, particularly during the first three months. If you think you might be pregnant please let us know.
After your scan the images will very carefully be reviewed by the consultant radiologist and a detailed report prepared. An appointment will be arranged for you with Mr. Cole who will go through the scans with you, discussing what they show and the implications and options for your further clinical management.