Youth Cancer

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive procedure using magnetism and radio waves to provide detailed images of your body and its soft tissue structures.

MRIs help the medical team:
  • Diagnose disease
  • Monitor treatment progress
  • Understand other medical situations that arise

How do I prepare?

In most cases, there’s no special preparation for an MRI scan. You can eat and drink normally on the day of the scan, although it’s best to avoid large amounts of coffee or other things that might make you restless.

Depending on what part of your body is being scanned, you might have to wear a gown, but usually you can wear regular clothes (without heavy metal attachments).

Because of the strong magnetism, it is very important not to bring any metal into the scan room. You will be asked to remove your watch, keys, coins, earrings and anything else metallic.

What actually happens?

  • For the actual procedure, you lie on your back on a movable scanning table that moves into the MRI scanner.
  • Depending on what type of scan is necessary, the table moves you into the machine head or feet first. Once the body part to be scanned is in the exact centre of the magnetic field, the scan begins.
  • Most young people have no trouble during the procedure but some people can feel claustrophobic. To make you more comfortable, the inside of the scanner is well lit, and has a fan that gently blows fresh air.
  • Even though the technician is in another room during the procedure, he or she can see you at all times and you can see through a mirror positioned at eye level inside the machine. You can also talk to the technician through an intercom system.
  • If you want, you can usually bring someone with you in the room (check with the technician first).

Most MRI scans take between 30 and 90 minutes

  • Your only job is to remain completely still because even slight movement can spoil the images.
  • During the scan you will hear a variety of sounds such as humming and hammering. It may sound like the technician is hitting the side of the scanner with a large hammer.
  • These sounds are normal. You may be given earplugs or stereo headphones to muffle the noise and in most MRI centres you can bring an MP3 player to pump through some music, but don't be surprised if the music is drowned out by the noise.
Other than perhaps being a little uncomfortable (and loud!), an MRI is completely painless and you should have no side effects to worry about.