doctor reviewing MRI

Understanding MRIs

An explanation of MRIs and how they may be used in diagnosis
MRI Machine

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be an important tool in the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS). MRI can also be used to monitor the progression of the disease in people living with MS.

How does it work?

MRI uses very strong magnets, radio signals, and computer software to take 3-dimensional pictures of the inside of the body.

Will I need contrast material?

Maybe. Contrast material is a substance that temporarily changes the way imaging tools interact with the body. They are often used to visualize certain types of MS disease activity on the MRI. If your doctor thinks your scan requires this contrast material, you may get an injection before you get in the MRI machine.

How long will it take?

The time may vary based on the type of MRI. Be sure to discuss with your doctor in advance so he or she can provide you with exact timing. But don’t worry, you won’t have to stay still the whole time. The technician will let you know when they’re starting a new image.

What’s it like inside the machine?

The actual device emits a very unique sound. It might surprise you if you don’t know it’s coming. Talk to the technician as he or she can help you understand what to expect. It’s a sort of “Ca-CHUNK, Ca-CHUNK.” Don’t worry: it’s normal. The technician will probably warn you about the sound as well.

It may also seem a little cramped in the machine. If you suffer from claustrophobia, let your doctor know. He or she may have suggestions for how to deal with your discomfort.

When do I get the results?

Typically, your doctor will schedule an appointment to review both the written report and the actual images from the scan. As these scans become more routine, you may not always meet in person to discuss the results. It’s important to note that the technician who runs the MRI machine won’t be able to give you any information on the day of the scan. Only your doctor can interpret your results, so ask your doctor if you don’t understand something.