If you’ve been scheduled for a head MRI, you might not know what’s in store for you when you walk into the radiologist’s office. Luckily, getting an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan is not a serious procedure. Simply put, it’s just a test that creates an image of your brain for a doctor to examine and diagnose any potential abnormalities. You may be wondering, though, if you should prepare for the MRI scan in any way or perhaps you have questions about the procedure. This article will explain the head MRI scan in depth and inform you about its functionality and uses.
What is a head MRI, and what is it used for?
There are a few different kinds of MRI scans, but the head MRI (also known as brain MRI) is the most commonly performed type. The test produces a high-resolution image of your brain and, if needed, of your spinal cord area as well. A head MRI scan is done to diagnose conditions such as:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Injuries of the spinal cord
- Tumors or cysts
- Eye or inner ear disorders
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
Additionally, if you’ve recently experienced a head injury and have symptoms such as dizziness, seizures, blurry vision, or headaches, a doctor may recommend an MRI scan to determine the likelihood of brain damage.
A less common type of MRI scan is the functional MRI or fMRI. This test produces an image of the blood flow in your brain, allowing a doctor to identify areas responsible for language and movement. The fMRI scan is performed prior to brain surgery or to indicate brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease.
Preparing for an MRI: Before, during and after the test
Before the test
Once you arrive at the designated location (usually a hospital or radiology center), you will be instructed to remove all metal objects from your person. This includes metal jewelry, watches, house keys, and your mobile phone.
If you have any sort of implants that you think may contain metal such as a defibrillator / pacemaker, an artificial heart valve, a stent, or an artificial joint, you will need to inform the technician. Additionally, tell the technician if you’re pregnant or if you have any kidney or liver problems.
During the test
During the test, you’ll lie down on a sort of table that slides into a large tube. This tube is the MRI machine. Once you are inside the machine, the MRI scan itself can last up to an hour. If you’re undergoing a functional MRI, you may be asked to perform various repetitive tasks (tapping your fingers, for instance) to gauge your brain functionality.
If the technician cannot clearly see an image of your brain on the computer, he or she may arrange for a contrast solution to be injected into your arm. This is safe for most people and simply allows the technician to better examine your brain. However, as mentioned above, if you have any kidney or liver problems, you won’t receive the contrast solution as it can cause an adverse reaction in rare cases.
After the test
After the MRI scan, you don’t need to take any additional steps or limit your day-to-day activities. The results of the test will be sent to your doctor, who will be in touch with you at some point after the procedure to discuss the results.
Written by Natan Rosenfeld