Diagnostic Testing
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

What is the test?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI for short) is one of the most advanced, non-invasive techniques available for examining the human body. A valuable diagnostic tool, MRI creates detailed images of anatomic structures by using a strong magnetic field,  radio waves, and computers.

Is it true that not everyone can have an MRI?

Because this test involves the use of a strong magnetic field, our staff has to confirm your safety, so please be prepared to list all surgeries you have had in your life. While MRI is safe for most patients, a small percentage of people cannot have this examination, including women in their first trimester of pregnancy and patients with certain implants. Anyone who has a cardiac pacemaker cannot have an MRI. Other implants, such as cardiac stents, vascular clips, aneurysm clips, or heart valves, need to be verified for safety in the MRI environment by the technologist or radiologist.

Also, please let the imaging staff know if you have eye implants, permanent eyeliner, or if you have ever suffered an accident that left a tiny foreign body embedded in either of your eyes. If you have ever been shot or suffered shrapnel wounds, be sure to tell the staff.

While an MRI is painless, some people do experience claustrophobia during a standard (closed) MRI. If you think this may be an issue for you, please talk to your referring doctor ahead of time about your options: either using a mild sedative (which will require that you have a companion drive you home) or having a high-field open MRI. Cayuga Medical Center’s powerful open MRI is designed for maximum patient comfort while delivering excellent images.

How do I prepare?

For most MRI exams there is no special preparation. You may eat and drink as normal, and you may take medications as prescribed by your physician. Please plan to arrive 20 minutes before your scheduled appointment. Most MRI exams take at least 1 hour from start to finish, which includes completing the information forms prior to the actual exam. If you are having multiple examinations, plan to stay longer.

There is special preparation for an MRI exam of the abdominal area. You may have nothing to eat or drink for a minimum of 6 hours before your appointment. Take your medications with the smallest amount of water possible, as fluid degrades the MRI images.

What can I expect during the procedure?

Prior to entering the MRI room for your exam, we will give you a safe place in which to leave behind those items that are not compatible with a magnetic field. This includes items such as coins, hearing aids, jewelry, glasses, credit cards, keys, hair pins, and any other metal objects.  

If you wear clothing without metal (such as zippers or snaps), you should not have to change into a gown. You will be asked to lie on a table that moves into a hollow cylinder surrounded by a large magnet. During the procedure you may hear thumping while the equipment is in operation (for which ear plugs or head phones are provided). There is no sensation of pain from the magnetic field or radio waves. The examination can last from 10 to 45 minutes, depending on the part of the body being imaged. You must remain still during the test, so if you are in pain, you may want to take something prior to having your MRI. You may talk with the MRI technologist during the exam.

Depending on the clinical problem and the findings of the initial MRI, you may be given a contrast agent that enhances the quality of the image. The contrast agent is injected into a vein in your arm. The MRI images are reviewed by a radiologist to ensure they are of good quality, and if additional scans are necessary, they usually will be taken right away.

After the procedure?

If you have had a contrast administered, we recommend that you drink plenty of caffeine-free fluids after your MRI.

How and when will I get my test results?

Typically, within 48 hours a written report of your test results will be sent to your referring physician, who will review them with you. Additional time (3 to 5 days) may be required if we are comparing these test results to previous findings from another hospital or health-care provider.

Where is this test performed?

MRI is available at all three Imaging Services centers. Standard (closed) MR Imaging is available at Cayuga Medical Center at 101 Dates Drive, off NYS Route 96 in Ithaca, and at Convenient Care and Commons Imaging Center in Cortland, Route 281 at Commons Avenue. High-field Open MRI is available at the Convenient Care Center in Ithaca, Warren Road at Arrowwood Drive.

About our Imaging Services

Cayuga Medical Center has a commitment to and reputation for staying abreast of changing technology and our imaging equipment is state-of-the-art. Our range of services is comprehensive and we offer all imaging modalities found in major medical centers. Radiologists are on site at all three of our locations, which also distinguishes the level of service we provide.

Imaging Services is staffed by six-board certified radiologists, many of whom are subspecialists in areas such as neuroradiology, abdominal CT, and interventional procedures. Assisting them are experienced radiologic technologists, many of whom have completed advanced training and are certified in specialty modalities.

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