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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the Shoulder

How It Is Done continued...

You will need to take off all or most of your clothes, depending on which area is examined (you may be allowed to keep on your underwear if it is not in the way). You will be given a gown to use during the test. If you are allowed to keep some of your clothes on, you should empty your pockets of any coins and cards (such as credit cards or ATM cards) with scanner strips on them because the MRI magnet may erase the information on the cards.

During the test

During the test, you will lie on your back on a table that is part of the MRI scanner camera.gif. The table will slide into the space that contains the magnet. A device called a coil may be placed over or wrapped around the area to be scanned.

Some people feel nervous (claustrophobic) inside the MRI magnet. If feeling nervous keeps you from lying still, you can be given a medicine (sedative) to help you relax. Some MRI machines (called open MRI) are made so that the magnet does not enclose your entire body. Open MRI machines camera.gif may be helpful if you are claustrophobic.

Inside the scanner, you will hear a fan and feel air moving. You may also hear tapping or snapping noises as the MRI scans are taken. You may be given earplugs or headphones with music to reduce the noise. It is very important to hold completely still while the scan is being done. You may be asked to hold your breath for short periods of time.

During the test, you may be alone in the scanner room. But the technologist will watch you through a window. You will be able to talk with the technologist through a two-way intercom.

If contrast material is needed, the technologist will usually put it in through an IV in your arm or hand. The injection may be given over 1 to 2 minutes.

Contrast material may be put directly into your shoulder joint by the radiologist. Your doctor will make your shoulder numb (local anesthetic) before putting in the contrast material. Then more MRI scans are done for this part of the test. This is called a magnetic resonance arthrogram.

An MRI test usually takes 30 to 60 minutes but can take as long as 2 hours.

How It Feels

You won't have pain from the magnetic field or radio waves used for the MRI test. The table you lie on may feel hard and the room may be cool. You may be tired or sore from lying in one position for a long time.

If a contrast material is used, you may feel some coolness and flushing as it is put into your IV. You may have a squishy feeling in your shoulder for 1 to 2 days from the material.

In rare cases, you may feel:

  • A tingling feeling in the mouth if you have metal dental fillings.
  • Warmth in the area being examined. This is normal. Tell the technologist if you have nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, pain, burning, or breathing problems.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 29, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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