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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the Spine

How It Is Done

An MRI is usually done by an MRI technologist. The pictures are usually read by a radiologist. But some other types of doctors can also read an MRI scan.

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.

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. The MRI magnet may erase the information on the cards.

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.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 09, 2014
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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