Understanding MRIs

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

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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 an MRI 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 healthcare provider thinks your scan requires this contrast material, you may get an injection before you get in the MRI machine.

How long does an MRI take?

An MRI test lasts anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, but may take longer. Be sure to discuss with your healthcare provider 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 an MRI 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 healthcare provider know. He or she may have suggestions for how to deal with your discomfort.

How do I get my MRI results?

It’s important to work with your primary healthcare provider when scheduling an MRI and reviewing the results. Typically, your primary healthcare provider 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 healthcare provider can interpret your results, so ask your healthcare provider if you don’t understand something.

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