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Customer FAQ

Frequently asked questions - magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

What is MRI?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (or MRI) uses high frequency waves and a magnetic field to create three-dimensional section or layered images of body organs or tissue. It is a diagnostic technique widely used in medicine nowadays. MRI is completely pain-free, safe and does not subject your body to X-rays.
In MRI, high frequency waves are targeted on the patient's body, which is placed at the same time inside a strong magnetic field. As the human body mainly consists of water, these radiowaves are "reflected". This creates signals which can be transformed using a computer into an image.
Normally, an MRI examination is made up of 2-6 parts, called sequences, which can last up to 5 minutes. Each recording sequence creates a section image of your body on one of a number of possible planes.

Why would one need an MRI examination?

MRI makes it possible to gain quick and reliable views of the inside of your body. With MRI, the radiologist can produce images which are accurate representations of your spine, joints, vessels or internal organs, so as to be able to give a reliable diagnosis. It is done without X-rays, and is thus a key alternative to Computer Tomography (CT).

What is the difference between MRI and X-ray?

MRI does not involve X-ray radiation. The images are created by a strong magnetic field and radiowaves. Consequently, MRI is a harmless and safe method of examination. 

What is the difference between open and tunnel MRI devices?

There are two types of MRI device: Conventional MRI devices consist of a closed tube into which the patient is inserted for the purpose of the examination. There are also open MRI devices, which are much more patient-friendly. These MRI devices are open on both sides and offer you both space and comfort. Open MRI devices combine the highest image quality with the best in patient comfort.

Use your postcode to find a practice with an open MRI device near you, and ask whether your examination can be performed there.

What happens during the examination?

No preparation is necessary unless your doctor has told you otherwise.
You will lie on the bed of the device and receive headphones, which will dampen the noise during the examination. You will hear various tapping noises during the course of the examination. These may be slightly irritating, but are quite harmless.
In order to ensure high quality images, you need to lie still during the entire examination. You may also be asked to hold your breath for a short time during certain examinations. You may require the administration of contrast medium, which will be injected into a vein in your arm. Throughout the entire examination, you will be in contact with the assistance staff.

How long does the examination last?

The examination usually lasts 15-20 minutes. This may vary, however, depending on the type of examination. 

Are MRI examinations safe?

MRI is a very safe method of examination. Moreover, every MRI device is closely inspected on a regular basis to ensure your safety as well as stable image quality.
At the same time, a strong magnetic field is used, so you should inform your radiologist immediately if you are wearing an electronic device on your body (such as a pacemaker, insulin pump, etc.), metal implants or foreign bodies (such as heart valves). You should also inform your radiologist before the examination if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Do I need to lie still throughout the entire examination?

In order to achieve precise images, it is very important to lie still throughout the entire examination. MRI examinations usually take 15-20 minutes and consist of a number of recording sequences. The assistance staff will inform you if you can move in between sequences. 

I am overweight. Will I fit into an MRI device?

Overweight patients especially often feel closed in in the conventional MRI device, "the tube". Fortunately, an alternative now exists, the open MRI device, which offers you both space and comfort. These devices are open at the sides and have a broad and comfortable bed, which also make it suitable for heavy patients.
Use your postcode to find a practice with an open MRI device near you, and ask whether your examination can be performed there.

What happens if i have an attack of claustrophobia?

There are two types of MRI device: Conventional MRI devices consist of a closed tube into which the patient is inserted for the purpose of the examination. There are also open MRI devices, which are much more patient-friendly. These MRI devices are open on both sides and offer you space and comfort. Open MRI devices combine the highest image quality with the best in patient comfort.

Use your postcode to find a practice with an open MRI device near you, and ask whether your examination can be performed there.

Why is it so noisy during the examination?

Magnetic fields are switched on and off quickly in succession during the course of the examination. This leads to vibrations which cause the characteristic tapping noises. These noises are normal and are always audible during examinations.

You will receive earplugs or headphones to use to protect your ears. 

Do I have to be alone during MRI?

You will be monitored by the assistance staff during the examination and you can always have contact with them via the microphone and speaker. In addition, there is also an alarm button which you can simply press should you feel unwell. If you choose an open MRI device, someone can stay with you during the recording. This is particularly good for children and their parents, as the parent is close to the child and gives them a feeling of security.

Will my child need sedation if he/she needs an MRI examination?

It is often necessary to sedate a child in regular closed MRI so that they lie still.
Luckily, open MRI devices are also available, the design of which enables a parent to remain with the child during the examination and to hold his/her hand, for example. This is usually sufficient to calm a child, so that sedation is no longer necessary.
Use your postcode to find a practice with an open MRI device near you, and ask whether your child's examination can be performed there.

When will I get the results?

A radiologist will evaluate your images and make a diagnosis. Please ask on site when you will receive your results. Usually, this is directly connected with the examination. Occasionally, it may be that the doctor who examines you needs to send the images and the results to the referring physician. Your attending physician will then discuss the results with you in depth.

Are allergies of importance?

You should inform your radiologist of any allergies or medication intolerance prior to the examination, as you may need contrast medium. The contrast medium used in MRI only rarely causes an allergic reaction. Please discuss this with your doctor. 

Will my insurance cover the examination?

This depends on your insurer and on the practice where you would like to have the examination performed. Use your postcode to find an practice with an open MRI device near you, and ask whether your examination will be covered.