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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the Spine

How It Is Done continued...

During the test, you usually lie on your back on a table that is part of the MRI scanner. Your head, chest, and arms may be held with straps to help you remain still. 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. A belt strap may be used to sense your breathing or heartbeat. This triggers the machine to take the scan at the right time.

If you feel very nervous inside the machine, you may be given a sedative to help you relax. You may be able to have an MRI with an open machine camera.gif that doesn't enclose your entire body. But open MRI machines aren't available everywhere. The pictures from an open MRI may not be as good as those from a standard MRI machine camera.gif.

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 put it in an intravenous (IV) line in your arm. The material may be given over 1 to 2 minutes. Then more MRI scans are done.

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

How It Feels

You will not have pain from the magnetic field or radio waves used for the MRI. 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.

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.

Risks

There are no known harmful effects from the strong magnetic field used for MRI. But the magnet is very powerful. The magnet may affect pacemakers, artificial limbs, and other medical devices that contain iron. The magnet will stop a watch that is close to the magnet. Any loose metal object has the risk of causing damage or injury if it gets pulled toward the strong magnet.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 24, 2013
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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