Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an imaging technique producing very detailed images of any part of the body without using ionising radiation.
We are pleased to accept referrals for MRI and will arrange the examination in Headington Oxford, Central London or Cheltenham as appropriate to the patient’s needs and the examination techniques required. We can arrange imaging at high field strength (3T or 1.5T) We have access to a superconducting magnet that allows investigation in a lying, standing or sitting position. We can arrange investigations using open magnets.
We will receive the images electronically and will provide the report in a secure online format with easy access to the images for the referring clinician.
A conventional MR scanner is tube shaped and open at each end. The area of the body to be scanned needs to be at the centre of the magnet in order to obtain the best images. Modern scanners have been designed to make the experience as pleasant as possible. The radiographer will explain exactly what will happen and will be watching you and in contact with you throughout the scan. If you suffer from claustrophobia however and are worried about being scanned you might consider an appointment on an ‘open’ MRI scanner. It should be noted however that if you are having your knee, lower leg, ankle or foot scanned, your head will be outside of the tube of a conventional scanner. We can also arrange examination in an open standing or sitting scanner which may be particularly important for problems in the limbs or spine.
MRI is a very safe technique; however scans are contraindicated on some patients such as those with certain implants in their body such as pacemakers or with metallic foreign bodies within the orbit. The scanning centre will check with you in advance of your appointment concerning safety information. Sometimes, additional information such as operation notes need to be obtained, so it is important to respond as soon as possible to any requests for safety information to avoid your appointment being postponed.
The radiographer will ask you if you are happy for the scan to go ahead. This is called verbal consent and may only involve the radiographer checking you are booked for the correct scan. If you do not wish to have the scan or are undecided, please tell the radiographer.
It is your decision and you can change your mind at any time. Please bear in mind that not having the scan may delay your diagnosis as the doctors may not have all of the information that they need. Please remember that you can ask the radiographer any questions you have at any time before, during, or after your scan.
Please have a look at our consent policy for more information.
An MRI is a very safe procedure, but patients with heart pacemakers and certain surgical implants, eg cochlear implants, cannot be scanned. You will be asked to complete a safety questionnaire before your scan to make sure it is safe for you to be scanned. If you cannot have an MRI scan, you may be able to have a CT or ultrasound scan instead.
Sometimes we need to give you an injection of contrast dye before the scan. This contains gadolinium, which some people are allergic to. Very rarely it can cause an allergic reaction which is similar to hay fever (runny nose and itchy eyes).
If you are pregnant, national safety guidelines recommend that we do not carry out an MRI scan unless it is clinically urgent. The doctor who refers you for the scan will decide with the radiologist (doctor who uses x-ray to diagnose and treat illnesses) if your scan is necessary. Many pregnant women have had MRI scans with no reported problems. For further information call the number at the top of this page.
The radiographer will ask you to lie on the scanner bed and position you correctly. You will need to keep very still during the scan to avoid blurring the pictures.
If we are scanning your chest or abdomen, we may ask you to hold your breath for a moment.
The scan should be completely painless. The most difficult part is keeping still. However, it makes a loud banging noise. We will give you headphones to reduce the noise. You can listen to music, so please bring in a CD.
Listen to the noise you will hear during your scan.
As soon as the scan is finished, you can go home or back to your ward if you are an inpatient.
You can eat, drink and resume normal activities straightaway.
The results will be sent to the doctor who referred you and a follow up appointment should be made for you to receive the results within the time specified by your doctor. For urgent problems, the results will be available sooner.
If you are an inpatient, the results will be given to the doctors looking after you on the ward.