Frequently Asked Questions: MRI

An MRI is a test that produces highly detailed pictures of body tissues and organs without the need for x-rays. Instead, electromagnetic energy and pulses of radiofrequency waves move through the area of the body that’s being examined, point by point, to create 2-D images or 3-D models.

An MRI can detect important changes in the normal structure of organs or other tissues, which may indicate diseases caused by trauma, infection, inflammation, or tumors. Sometimes a contrast material is administered during an MRI scan to enhance the visibility of certain structures to help doctors evaluate blood flow, detect certain types of tumors, and locate areas of inflammation.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please contact the Diagnostic Imaging Department at 715-939-1594.

What makes an MRI different from an X-ray or CT scan?

MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging and does not utilize radiation. Instead, a strong magnetic field and radio waves are combined to create high-quality images of soft tissue which cannot be detected by an X-ray.

Is MRI safe?

Yes. The magnetic field and radio waves pose no health risks or side effects. You will be asked to complete a safety-screening questionnaire before your exam to determine if you the right candidate for MRI.

Is it okay to have an MRI if I’m pregnant or if I breast feed?

MRI is not usually recommended for pregnant women, unless it is medically necessary. If you are pregnant, (or think you might be), please inform your doctor before your exam. If you are not pregnant and breast feed your baby, you should wait 48 hours after the GAD (Glutamic Acid Decarboxylase) injection before resuming breastfeeding.

What does the MRI scanner look like?

It’s a long, narrow tube that’s open at both ends and is both bright and well-ventilated. It’s also equipped with a stereo headset which is also a two-way intercom so you can communicate with the technologist throughout the procedure.

What happens during the exam?

You will be asked to lie down on a cushioned exam table and the technologist will place a “coil” device around the area of your body this is to be scanned. The table will then gently move into the wide tube opening of the scanner until the coil device is in the center of the tube. The tunnel is open at both ends and is bright and well-ventilated. To help you relax, you will hear soothing music. As the exam proceeds, you will hear a knocking sound while the images are being taken. It is critical that you lie still during this part of the exam to ensure image quality. MRIs typically last 45 minutes – 1 hour for non-contrasted exams and 1 hour 30 minutes for contrasts exams.

What’s the loud knocking for?

The scanner’s strong magnetic fields build up energy and when this energy is released, it results in loud knocking sounds.

What can I do if I’m claustrophobic?

For most patients, an MRI exam is highly tolerable. If you typically experience anxiety in small, enclosed spaces, please inform your doctor before scheduling your exam.