MRI with or without Contrast

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an advanced medical imaging technique that does not use x-rays or radiation. Instead, it uses a strong magnetic field, radio waves, and a computer. This creates very clear pictures of internal body structures.

An MRI is used to examine soft tissues like organs, muscles, tendons, & blood vessels in many parts of the body. This includes areas of the brain, spine, abdomen, chest, pelvis, and joints (like knees and shoulders). The MR image offers unique information to help your doctor better plan your treatment and care.


Preparing for the Test

Planning Ahead:

  • Inform your doctor if you have any of these items: a pacemaker, aneurysm clips, metallic implants, metal fragments in your eyes or any other electronic or magnetically activated implant. If you have any of these items it may not be possible, or safe, to have an MRI scan.
  • If your MRI requires the injection of a contrast agent, blood work will need to be done before your MRI to make sure your kidneys are working well.
  • If you are claustrophobic or experience pain when lying on your back for more than 30 minutes, let the MRI staff know. Your doctor can prescribe a relaxant or pain medication.
  • If your doctor has you take a relaxant medication, arrange for a companion (family member or friend) to pick you up after your MRI. You will not be able to drive or take a taxi home after the test if you take a relaxant medication.
  • If you are pregnant or breast feeding, please notify the MRI staff before the study.


The Day of the Test

  • There are no food or drink restrictions. Continue to take your normal medications unless your doctor directs you otherwise.
  • Wear comfortable clothing. Avoid wearing clothing that has metal zippers, snaps, hooks, safety pins, underwires or metal threads. You can be given a gown to wear if this is not possible.
  • Shoes, belt buckles, hair barrettes, hairpins, jewelry, and watches will need to be removed before entering the MRI room. You will be provided with a secure locker to lock up your purse, wallet, cards with magnetic strips, keys, cell phones,beepers, coins, etc.


During the Test

  • When you arrive in radiology you will be asked to fill out a screening form asking about anything that might create a health risk or interfere with imaging. The MR technologist will explain the MRI scan to you before you start. Ask questions if you don’t understand.
  • You will be required to wear earplugs or headphones to protect your hearing from the loud noise produced during the scan. Eyeglasses, dentures, and foil-lined medication patches will need to be removed before the imaging.
  • You will be asked to lie down on the padded scanning table that glides you into a large, tubular machine. For some exams, you can listen to music through headphones. The inside of the scanner is well lit and has a fan to blow fresh air gently over you. The technologist will be able to see, hear and speak with you at all times using a 2-way intercom. The machine makes a rhythmic knocking and thumping sounds as it takes the images.
  • Your doctor may request that you receive an injection of a contrast agent called “gadolinium”. If you are having an MRI with contrast, the technologist will start an IV in your arm. The contrast will be injected into the IV. You will feel a prick when the IV is started. At some point during the exam the contrast agent will be injected into a vein in your arm. Unlike contrast agents used in x-ray studies, MRI contrast agents do not contain iodine and rarely cause allergic reactions or other problems.
  • MRI images are very sensitive to movement. You will be asked to remain perfectly still during the time the imaging takes place. By keeping very still during the scan you can improve the quality of the images we obtain.


After the Test

You can resume your normal activity after the test is complete.


Length of the Test

An MRI takes between 30-60 minutes, depending upon the part of the body being imaged.

Your appointment is in the Institute for Advanced Biomedical Imaging (Radiology). You will be directed where to go when you check in. If you have any questions, you may contact Advanced Biomedical
Imaging (Radiology) at 303.398.1611.


This information has been approved by Will Cook, ARRT, MA and Eric Yager, ARRT, BS (February 2012).

Contact Us

If you have questions, or will not be able to make your appointment, please call: 303.398.1611.

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