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Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI is one of the most common diagnostic tests in our country, but before undergoing an examination of this type there are a series of issues that we must know so that everything goes perfectly.

There are around 900 MRI machines in Spanish hospitals and health centres which, according to the Spanish Society of Medical Radiology, perform more than three and a half million tests each year. If the following quote is for you, I invite you to read carefully.

Will I be exposed to dangerous radiation?

Resonance imaging devices do not emit ionizing radiation, unlike CT scans, for example. MRI is a safe and painless test. The same is true for ultrasounds, which also do not emit any radiation.

How long does the test take?

There is no standard duration, it will depend on the study to be carried out, but itusually lasts about 45 or 50 minutes on average.

Do I have to be totally still?

Yes, that's all they're going to ask of you during the test, to be calm, still, lying down and relaxed. If we move when a picture is taken, we will be blurred; the same thing happens with resonance.

The machine emits loud sounds during its operation, you don't have to worry about anything, they will also put headphones or even music to isolate you from that noise as much as possible.

Are I going to get punctured?

Maybe. Depending on which area of the body they want to study, the radiologist will assess beforehand whether or not it is necessary to use a contrast dye during the MRI. This is nothing more than a drug that allows us to see in more detail certain cavities of our body, to see how some structures work and even to distinguish healthy tissues from damaged ones.

This contrast can be given orally before the test or it can be injected during the test through a venous line.

How far does resonance cover?

You may have heard that it is a closed tube and that the idea is overwhelming, but you should know that it is not so: it is open at both ends and you are not going to be enclosed inside.

If, for example, the MRI is of your head, it will be what goes into the machine first and will cover you up to the waist. The legs will stay out.

Will I have to undress?

Yes. You will be provided with a gown to wear during the test along with your underwear but, above all, and this is very important, you will be asked to remove any metal objects you are carrying. All. Even the smallest.

This is due to the fact that the machine uses a very powerful magnet that will attract any metal object with surprising force, turning them into real projectiles. If you carry your mobile phone with you during the test, it will be unusable.

It is vitally important that, before entering the room, you warn the staff if you have any device implanted or are carrying items such as insulin pumps or cochlear implants, as they must assess whether they could cause damage during the test.

What items can I not carry?

Jewellery, hearing aids, watches, hairpins, brooches, belts, credit cards, glasses, piercings, mobile phones...

In the case of artificial limbs, heart valves, stents, aneurysm clips, implanted defibrillators, nerve stimulators... You must always give notice before entering the room so that each case can be assessed.

I have a dental implant, can I get an MRI?

Dental implants, as well as screws or plates used in traumatology, are usually made of titanium. In this case, they are not a problem, since it is the materials with ferromagnetic properties that could be displaced if their implementation is recent.

In any case, you should always let the staff know that you have an implant or braces in case the study is carried out in an area close to your implantation, as this could heat up or distort the image.

I'm a pacemaker carrier, can I no longer have an MRI?

It's going to depend on the date of manufacture of that pacemaker. With the recent models there is no problem, but before the test you have to go through Cardiology to be put in MRI mode. And when you're done, come back to be reactivated.

Are tattoos a problem?

In the past, tattoos were made with metallic-based inks that could interfere with the image and cause burns.

But nowadays synthetic inks are usually used that are not a problem, although in tattoos that cover large areas of skin the area could heat up during the test. In that case, a damp cloth can be applied to the tattoo.

Can I have an MRI with breast prostheses?

Yes, they are not a problem. But in the case of breast expanders, which are implanted prior to the definitive prosthesis, it must be assessed whether they contain a small metal valve.

Am I going to be alone?

During the test, there will be times when there is no one by your side, but we will be watching you at all times on the other side of the glass. If you are afraid or overwhelmed, you will be able to communicate with us through a microphone; We will be able to hear and talk to you during the test. You can even give it a button that can also warn you and, if necessary, the test can be interrupted.

Do I have to go on an empty stomach?

As a general rule, you don't have to. But in some cases, you may be told not to eat or drink a few hours beforehand. If so, you'll be warned.

How does an MRI work?

To obtain images of the inside of our body so that the radiologist can decipher them, this device uses a very powerful magnet in the shape of a ring and radiofrequency pulses similar to radio waves. By combining both elements and with the help of a computer program, the images are obtained.

Is it better to have a CT scan or MRI?

They are different radiological studies, one is not better than the other. For example, CT is ideal in urgent pathologies, such as when a patient suffers a severe head injury and we need to quickly know the extent of the injuries with high resolution and precision. On the other hand, MRI is very useful for assessing in great detail the nervous system, the musculoskeletal system and to know and study the state of abdominal and pelvic organs.

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