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MRI scan

This section contains answers to frequently asked questions about this topic. Questions have been suggested by health professionals, website feedback and requests via email.

I'm having an MRI scan but I'm scared of enclosed spaces – what should I do?

Answer

If you're anxious about being in an enclosed space, tell your radiographer before having the scan. There are several things that can be done to make the scan easier for you.

Explanation

If you have claustrophobia, or think you may get anxious inside the scanning machine, contact the radiography department where your scan will take place the day before. Getting in touch before your appointment allows your radiographer enough time to make arrangements to help you during the scan.

MRI scanners are open ended so you won't be completely enclosed at any time. The newer scanners are much shorter and wider than older ones, have a light inside and a slight breeze flowing through them.

Your radiographer will be able to see and hear you during the scan. If you feel worried during your scan, tell your radiographer straight away. You will be given a call button to hold during the scan, which you can press to talk to the radiographer. Some radiography departments may be able to supply you with special viewing glasses that allow you to see out of the scanner and show the rest of the room.

There are several things that can make the scan more comfortable for you. Some hospitals play music to help you relax or you may be able to take some music with you for them to play.

If you're very anxious, you may be offered a sedative to help you relax during the scan. If you have a sedative, you will need to arrange for someone to drive you home. You should try to have a friend or relative stay with you for the first 24 hours after the scan.

What can an MRI scan be used for?

Answer

MRI can be used to look at almost any part of your body and it can help your doctor to diagnose or monitor your condition.

Explanation

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can show a lot of detail in soft tissues, such as breast tissue, organs such as your brain, liver and heart and your blood vessels and nerves. MRI scanning is particularly good at showing diseases or injuries of the spine, head and neck and muscles and bones.

MRI can also be used to diagnose or monitor:

  • conditions that affect the brain, for example, dementia, stroke, multiple sclerosis and meningitis
  • heart conditions, for example, valve problems or narrowing of your blood vessels
  • cancer
  • liver or kidney disease
  • conditions or injuries that affect your bones and joints, for example, arthritis or sports injuries
  • bowel disease

For some parts of your body and for some types of tissues, an MRI can produce clearer results than a CT scan. In other circumstances a CT scan will give better images. Your doctor will know which type of scan is best for you.

Can I have an MRI scan if I have metal or gold fillings in my teeth or a titanium dental implant?

Answer

Tooth fillings and braces aren't affected by the magnetic field in an MRI scan. However, they may affect the quality of the images if you're having your head scanned.

Explanation

It's safe to have an MRI scan if you have tooth fillings or braces. However, these can affect the images produced during the scan.

If you have any fillings, dental implants or braces, let your radiographer know about them before your scan. If your dental implants are easily removable (for example, some braces can be taken out and put back in) your radiographer may ask you to remove them for the scan.

 

Produced by Rebecca Canvin, Bupa Health Information Team, January 2013. 

For our main content on this topic, see Information.

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  • This information was published by Bupa's Health Information Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition. The content is intended only for general information and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the about our health information page.

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