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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the Head

How To Prepare

Before your MRI test, tell your doctor and the MRI technologist if you:

  • Are allergic to any medicines. The contrast material used for MRI does not have iodine. If you know that you are allergic to the contrast material used for the MRI, tell your doctor before having another test.
  • Have any other health conditions, such as kidney problems or sickle cell disease, that may prevent you from having an MRI using contrast material.
  • Are or might be pregnant.
  • Have any metal implanted in your body. This helps your doctor know if the test is safe for you. Tell your doctor if you have:
    • Heart and blood vessel devices such as a coronary artery stent, pacemaker, ICD (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator), or metal heart valve.
    • Metal pins, clips, or metal parts in your body, including artificial limbs and dental work or braces.
    • Any other implanted medical device, such as a medicine infusion pump or a cochlear implant.
    • Cosmetic metal implants, such as in your ears, or tattooed eyeliner.
  • Have an intrauterine device (IUD) in place. An IUD may prevent you from having the MRI test done.
  • Become very nervous in small, tight spaces. You need to lie very still inside the MRI magnet. You may need medicine to help you relax.
  • Wear any medicine patches. The MRI may cause a burn at the patch site.

You may need to arrange for someone to drive you home after the test if you are given a medicine (sedative) to help you relax.

You will be asked to sign a consent form that says you understand the risks of the test and agree to have it done.

Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).

How It Is Done

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test is done by an MRI technologist. The pictures are read by a radiologist. But some other types of doctors (such as a neurologist or neurosurgeon) can also read an MRI scan of the head.

You will need to remove all metal objects (such as hearing aids, dentures, jewelry, watches, and hairpins) from your body because these objects may be attracted to the powerful magnet used for the test. If you have had an accident or you work around metal, there is a chance that you have metal pieces in your head, eyes, skin, or spine. An X-ray may be taken before the MRI to see if you can have the test.

You may need to take off some of your clothes. You will be given a gown to wear during the test. If you keep your clothes on, 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

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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