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For our patients- What to expect if your provider referred you for an MRI?

For many people, the idea of having to gown up and lay in a strange machine is intimidating. Others who have never experienced an MRI may find themselves more fearful of not knowing what to expect. Whatever the cause for insecurities, understanding the standard MRI process can make the test seem less frightening and more tolerable.

Step 1: Eating

Although many medical tests require that a patient is NPO (without food or water) prior to a procedure, rarely do MRIs require this.

Step 2: Checking in

The day of the MRI, begins with arriving at a hospital, medical plaza or radiology center that has an MRI machine. The patient will be asked to check in and fill out any necessary paperwork before the procedure begins.

Step 3: Changing

Because of how sensitive MRI machines are to magnetic items, the patient will be shown to a dressing room and asked to undress into a metal free gown as well as to remove any jewelry, hair ties, etc that are metal. Women will be asked to remove their bras. All belongings should be placed in a designated locker.

Step 4: Questions

After changing into a gown, a series of questions will be asked in a small room or nursing section of the clinic regarding the patient’s medical history. At this time, if a patient has a pacemaker, metal pins, or any type of metal in their body they should inform the nurse. If the MRI requires dye or medications, an IV may be placed at this time.

Step 5: The Technologist

Finally it is time to meet the technologist. He or she will be responsible for positioning the patient and performing the scan. Now is a good time to bring up any last minute questions or concerns to decrease anxiety.

Step 6: Ear Plugs

The machine is very loud while scanning a patient. Ear plugs will be provided and should be worn to drown out the sound of the machine. Depending on the facility, ear plugs that provide music may be provided for relaxation.

Step 7: Getting Positioned

Now comes the actual part of entering the machine. The patient will be asked to lie down on a table that slides out of a tunnel-like machine. The technologist will position the patient for the scan and in some cases will prop up the patient’s knees.

Step 8: Inside

The technologist will slide the bed into the machine and enter a different room where he or she is able to administer the scan. The scan normally takes between 30 and 60 minutes depending on the MRI ordered. Breathing during the scan is acceptable but the patient should lie very still and try his best not to move. It is normal to hear clicking sounds.

Step 9: Communication

One thing that makes many people nervous is not being able to communicate with their technologist. The technologist is able to hear and respond to the patient at any time if the patient is not tolerating the scan or has a question or concern. Because of this system, a patient is never “stuck” in the machine against his will.

Step 10: Finished!

After the test is complete, the scanning table will be withdrawn from the machine and the technologist will help the patient back to his dressing room to change. A radiologist, a doctor with a specialization in radiology, will later look over the images created during the scan and will write up a report to send to the patient’s doctor regarding the results. The patient will meet with his doctor in a few weeks to discuss the results.


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What to expect if your provider referred you for a CT Scan

A lot of people have a lot of questions before they go in for their

scheduled CT exam. Keep reading to know what to expect. The first thing you should know is that a CT Scan IS NOT AN MRI. You can have metal on your body, but anything that is removable in the area being scanned should be removed. If you are unsure if you even need the test

be sure to ask questions!

X-Ray Dye

Also, a lot of people have questions about the CT Contrast, or "Dye." The dye is a solution that the technologist will inject to highlight blood vessels, and anything that has blood flowing through it. It's extremely important and helps to diagnose a ton of problems. These days, not too many people have allergic

reactions to the dye as they did in the past. Be sure you tell your doctor if you have had any type of serious or minor reaction to this dye, as you may need pre-medication before the injection. Also tell your doctor and the technologist performing the exam if you have a medical history (yourself, not your family) of a brain bleed, diabetes, kidney failure, sickle cell anemia (if you have the disease, not a carrier), multiple myeloma (bone cancer), pheochromocytoma (an adrenal gland disorder), or thyroid disorders.

Normal IV Dye reactions are:

  • Headache
  • Warmth (all over, you'll probably feel very weird)
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Numbness, tingling sensation
  • Chills
  • Ringing in your ears
  • A taste (described as sucking on a penny or swallowing ink)
  • A urinating sensation (it feels very warm down there, so you feel as though you wet yourself)

Seek emergency treatment if you have the following symptoms within 24 hours of contrast injection:

  • Urinary symptoms (not going, or going less)
  • Severe headache with nausea and vomiting lasting several days
  • Seizures
  • Syncope (light-headedness, passing out)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A developing rash or hives
  • Swelling anywhere


If you are a diabetic, make sure that you let the technologist know. Certain diabetes medication, such as metformin, glucophage, and more, can interfere with the dye and cause kidney failure.


If you are over a certain age a creatinine test must be drawn. It's a kidney function test, and the results must be retrieved before the administration of the contrast dye. Other reasons for the creatinine test

to be drawn are because of diabetes and a history of kidney problems. Some places can draw up the labs and have the results in 5 minutes. Others need to run it through their lab systems and it can take about an hour. If you know you are going to have the contrast, be sure to get the labs drawn at the doctors office where the procedure was scheduled to save yourself the time.

Another test that will be drawn is a pregnancy test if you are a female who is of age to have a child. Some places won't take your word for it that you are not pregnant. Just take the test, it takes 5 minutes, and is relatively easy.

Another reason for a wait could be because you had to drink barium.


If you are having a CT scan of your abdomen and pelvis, more than likely you were asked to drink barium. It's gross, and everybody hates it. It's a necessary evil for the test, though. Barium acts in a way similar to the dye, except it's for the digestive system.

When you drink the barium, it coats your digestive system to highlight it, and will show off any abnormalities as well as highlight areas that could not be seen without it, such as your appendix. Normally, you have to wait an hour to an hour and a half after drinking it down before you can have your test.

Here's a tip on how to save yourself some time. Before you go to the facility where you are having your test done, ask either your doctor's office or the facility doing the scan for a bottle of the barium. Ask them "How long before my exam should I drink this?" and they will tell you. That way, you can drink it at home and not have to wait as long.

Rectal Contrast

Yes. If you are having a CT of the abdomen and pelvis, more than likely you will receive an enema of contrast that you have to hold in during the exam. It's similar to the barium, but not as thick, and you don't have to hold very much. You can refuse it, but it's not recommended as you will have a suboptimal exam, and something could be overlooked. There is a way around it though!

Drink 2 bottles! As stated before, ask the facility for a bottle of barium to take home. Tell them that you don't want them enema and you don't want a suboptimal exam, so when should you drink this to avoid the enema? Most places would be happy to do this, as they prefer not to actually give the enema either. Some facilities require 3 bottles, but normally the magic number is 2.

OK, so you've had the exam, now what?

You're done! Be sure to drink a ton of water so you don't dehydrate yourself after the dye is injected. Normally it takes about 2-3 days for your physician to get the results. The facility doing the exam can't give you the results but they can make copies via a CD or films to give to your doctor.