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What You Need to Know About Pelvic MRI

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 29, 2021

MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. It’s a procedure that makes images of your body. It uses a combination of magnetic fields, radio waves, and contrast dye to check for abnormalities in your body. 

A pelvic MRI creates images of the area between your hips. This is done to find problems with your pelvic bones, bowels, bladder, reproductive organs, lymph nodes, and more.

How to Prepare for a Pelvic MRI

Your doctor will help you prepare for your pelvic MRI scan.

Fill out the necessary paperwork. Your doctor will have you fill out the needed paperwork release forms and questionnaires to tell you about the procedure. Read these carefully to make sure everything goes safely and smoothly. 

Talk with your doctor. Tell your doctor about any allergies you may have. You should also let them know if you have any implants (especially metallic implants). These can cause problems during an MRI.

Prepare for an enclosed space. If you’re sensitive to small or enclosed spaces, speak to your doctor. An MRI involves laying in a small space for an extended amount of time, and it may cause you stress. Your doctor can prescribe a relaxant for the procedure if needed. 

Bring a buddy. Taking a relaxant to help you in the procedure can make it dangerous to drive yourself home afterward. If you expect to need a relaxant, bring someone to the procedure with you who can drive you home. 

Don’t eat or drink. Your doctor will outline an exact plan for your procedure. You’ll generally need to avoid eating or drinking up to four hours before the scan. 

Don’t use the bathroom. You’ll need to empty your bladder 2 hours before the scan and not go again until it’s all done. Using the bathroom after the procedure has started can cause problems and prolong the MRI. 

Dress down. Don’t wear any jewelry during the procedure. Wear comfortable clothing, such as loungewear or sportswear. Leave any valuables at home, in your car, or with the person who came to the scan with you. 

What Happens During a Pelvic MRI?

A pelvic MRI is easy and painless. It can last up to 60 minutes. 

  1. You’ll change into a gown and be asked to lay down on the MRI table. 
  2. Depending on the purpose of your MRI, additional tools may be used to improve the image quality. For example, coils may be placed around your pelvis, or a probe may be inserted into your rectum. 
  3. The MRI table will slide into a large, tube-shaped magnet. You need to stay very still during the procedure to make sure the imaging is as clear as possible. 
  4. You won’t feel anything. The MRI magnet will hum, click, and make noises as the magnetic fields and radio waves travel through you. You’ll be given earplugs to dampen the noise
  5. The technician performing the scan will be able to see and hear you during the examination. You’ll also have an emergency device that you can use to get the technician's attention if you need. 

Using contrast dye. Not every pelvic MRI will require contrast dye. It's used to get more information and more accurate images from your scan. 

Contrast dye is typically given through an IV. It passes through your bloodstream and makes your veins appear more clearly during an MRI. This will increase the chances of finding any abnormalities in your pelvic area. 

What You Need to Do After Your Pelvic MRI

You can return to your normal routine after your pelvic MRI. If you took a relaxer before the procedure, you’ll need to be driven home. 

A radiologist will look at your MRI images. The results of their examination will be sent to your doctor, who will discuss the results with you. 

If you were injected with contrast dye, you’ll need to drink plenty of water. Your body will flush the dye from your bloodstream, so staying hydrated is important to prevent dehydration. 

What Your Results Mean

If your pelvic MRI shows any abnormalities, this could suggest a number of conditions. Abnormal results can vary depending on your gender. 

Abnormal results for men and women can suggest: 

  • Birth defects, fractures, or avascular necrosis (loss of blood supply to the bone) in your hip
  • Bone tumors
  • Osteoarthritis, osteomyelitis, or other bone conditions
  • Cancer of your bladder or colon

Abnormal pelvic MRI results for men can suggest:

Abnormal results for women can suggest: 

  • Cervical, endometrial, or ovarian cancer
  • Adenomyosis, when tissue similar to the uterine lining attaches to the muscle wall of your uterus
  • Birth defects of the reproductive organs
  • Endometriosis, when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside your uterus in areas like your fallopian tubes and ovaries
  • Ovarian growths
  • Structural problems of the reproductive organs
  • Uterine fibroids, noncancerous growths that appear on your uterus

Is Pelvic MRI Risky?

A pelvic MRI is safe. There’s no radiation, and no long-term risks are posed by the magnetic fields or radio waves.

Risks posed by pelvis MRI include: 

  • If caution isn’t used with any metallic implants you may have
  • The loud noises from the machines
  • The enclosed space of the machine

While rare, some people have allergic reactions to the contrast dye. It's important to tell your doctor of any other allergies you have to avoid any complications with the contrast dye. 

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:
Cedars Sinai: “MRI Pelvis.”

Jean Hailes for Women's Health: "Adenomyosis."

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Avascular Necrosis."

Mayo Clinic: "Endometriosis," "Uterine fibroids."

Mount Sinai: “Pelvis MRI scan.”
National Cancer Institute: “contrast material.”
Sansum Clinic: “MRI of the Pelvis OB/GYN: Exam Description.”

U.S. Food & Drug Administration: “Benefits and Risks,” “MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging).”

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