Because the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner has a powerful magnetic field, the procedure requires certain safety precautions. Factors that may make an MRI inadvisable include:
- Pregnancy or possible pregnancy
- Previous brain, heart, or heart valve surgery
- The presence or possible presence of metal in your body
- The presence of a pacemaker
If you’re pregnant or may be pregnant, prior to your appointment you need written authorization to have an MRI from both your primary physician and your obstetrician. Dr. Hussman will review your case and, if necessary, consult with your doctors.
If you’ve had brain surgery, let Dr. Hussman know prior to scheduling an appointment, as you may not be able to undergo an MRI scan. Likewise, if you’ve ever had heart or heart valve surgery, Dr. Hussman should know. In some cases, your heart surgeon may be able to clear you for the exam.
Also tell Dr. Hussman if you have any metal inside your body, including an artificial joint, as it may make an MRI inadvisable.
The team at CitiMed Comprehensive TBI Center cannot safely accommodate patients with pacemakers.
Preparing for an MRI
Basic preparation for an MRI exam is simple. You don’t need to alter or restrict your diet before the procedure, and you can take your usual medications unless your primary care doctor recommends otherwise.
To protect your safety during the procedure and help preserve the quality of your exam, it’s important to let the team at CitiMed Comprehensive TBI Center know if any of the following apply:
- You wear a medication patch
- You have had (or may have) any metal particles in either eye
- You have an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD)
- You have a cochlear implant
- You use a nerve stimulator (TENS Unit)
- You use a drug pump
- You have any surgical clips in your body, such as brain aneurysm clips or tubal ligation clips
- You have (or may have) any surgical staples in your body
- You have dental fillings or bridges
- You have a penile implant, eye implant, or an intrauterine device (IUD)
- You have any artificial joints, such as a knee, hip, or shoulder replacement
Also let Dr. Hussman know whether you have any tattoos, as some tattoo inks contain trace amounts of metal. If you feel any heat or discomfort in the tattooed area during the procedure, you should alert the team.
MRI with contrast
If your referring physician orders an MRI with contrast, you’ll have a contrast agent called gadolinium injected into your bloodstream just before the exam. The gadolinium helps ensure that certain tissues show up clearly in the images.
Preparing for an MRI with contrast
To have an MRI with contrast, some patients require advance bloodwork. You’ll need to complete blood work no earlier than six weeks before your appointment if:
- You are 60 or older
- You have high blood pressure
- You are diabetic
- You have kidney problems
- You have liver disease
Make sure that the results of your blood work are sent to CitiMed Comprehensive TBI Center prior to your scheduled appointment.
Prior to the injection of the contrast agent, you’ll be asked if:
- You ever had an allergic reaction to an MRI contrast agent
- You’re pregnant or could be pregnant
- You’re currently breastfeeding
- You have kidney disease or are on dialysis
- You have a history of seizures
- You’re diabetic
- You’re taking medication for high blood pressure
Possible side effects or adverse reactions
The most common side effects associated with the injection of a contrast agent include headaches and nausea. Adverse reactions, such as anaphylactic shock, are not common.
If you’re a mother who breastfeeds, avoid nursing your baby for 24 hours following the exam. Although the contrast agent leaves your bloodstream within six to 24 hours, you should dispose of any milk you pump during that period of time.
If you have an MRI with contrast, you should not undergo another MRI with contrast for at least 72 hours.
What to wear to your MRI
Choose loose, comfortable clothes to wear to your MRI appointment. Because the presence of metal can degrade the quality of MRI images, your clothes should be metal-free in the area of the scan.
If you’re having a scan of your lower back or abdomen, for example, your clothing in that area shouldn’t have any zippers, snaps, or metal rivets. If you’re having a scan of your torso, avoid clothing with metal fasteners or wire, such as a bra. If you don’t have any metal-free clothing, the team at CitiMed Comprehensive TBI Center provides a gown.
Before your MRI, you should remove:
- All makeup, because many products contain metallic particles
- Hair clips or hair bands that contain metal
- Earrings, jewelry, and body- or facial-piercing jewelry
Also let Dr. Hussman know if you have any permanent makeup, as the ink used in eyeliner or eyebrow tattoos may contain metallic particles.
What to leave outside the MRI room
Expect to leave any object you bring to your MRI appointment outside of the exam room. Not only can certain objects cause the MRI scanner to produce poor or unclear images, but the machine’s strong magnetic field can also destroy or even launch certain objects into the air. The following should be left outside the exam room:
- Cell phones, pagers, PDAs, tablets, and laptops
- Keys, wallets, purses, credit cards, and loose change
- Watches and jewelry, including body-piercing items
- Eye glasses, hearing aids, and dentures
- Prosthetic devices and insulin pumps
What to bring to your appointment
Bring your photo ID, insurance card, and your doctor’s written MRI order to your appointment. Be prepared to make an insurance copayment prior to the exam, if required.
If you have any previous diagnostic imaging reports of the area of your body that’s being scanned, bring them to your exam. This may include any X-ray, CT scan, or prior MRI reports. If Dr. Hussman also requires the corresponding images, he’ll ask you to bring along any film or CD copies you may have.