What is an MRI scan?
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scanning is one of many imaging techniques used in diagnostic imaging. The process uses powerful magnets, radio waves and sophisticated computer imaging to create detailed pictures of internal body structure.
An MRI machine uses rapidly varying magnetic fields to excite hydrogen atoms in the water and fat molecules in the patient’s body, allowing them to be used as weak radio transmitters. Coils in the MRI machine receive these radio waves, which are reconstructed by computer software accurately reflect the composition of a patient’s body tissue. This produces well-defined images of internal structures including soft tissue in the brain, breasts, spine and abdomen as well as joints such as the hip, knee, ankle, shoulder, elbow, and wrist, and other areas.
What are MRI scans used for?
An MRI scan can precisely detect structural abnormalities of the body. This makes these scans useful to diagnose various health problems, or identify how well your body is responding to treatment.
How do I prepare for an MRI scan?
While preparation varies with the type of MRI examination, most MRI scans do not require any preparation. You may be required to fast prior to your scan, but for most appointments this is not the case. Our friendly staff will advise you of any preparation required when you make your appointment. You are welcome to ask questions regarding your examination at any time. Please bring your doctor’s MRI scan request form, your Medicare card and any previous X-rays, scans, reports and films each time you visit us.
What happens during an MRI scan?
A standard MRI examination takes approximately 40–60 minutes. During the MRI scan, the patient lies on the scanner table with the part of the body to be examined positioned in the scanner’s gantry. Patients can hear a noise as the MRI images are obtained, but will not be touched by any moving parts. There is no discomfort. A continuous tapping sound occurs during the scan, which can be startling at first, but often lulls people to sleep. You will be offered earplugs for hearing protection. Some patients may experience claustrophobia, but the MRI room layout is designed to minimise this as much as possible.
During the scan, the technician can see and hear you at all times via a camera and two-way microphone built into the scanner. Patients also have a buzzer that allows them to communicate with our staff during the scanning process.
Depending on the area under examination, some patients may receive an intravenous injection of contrast material. The contrast can provide valuable information by highlighting certain organs and blood vessels on the MRI images.
Is MRI scanning a safe process?
An MRI scan is a painless process that has the benefit of obtaining images of inside your body while avoiding exposure to x-ray radiation. MRI scans have no known side effects.
However, there is potential danger in some cases due to the powerful magnetic field of the scanner. Patients who have had recent surgery, or any metallic devices, implants or other material within the body MUST notify their physician prior to the examination and inform the Adelaide MRI staff. This is because metallic chips, surgical clips, artificial joints, metallic bone plates or prosthetic implants can distort images obtained by the MRI scanner, or interact with the magnet in the machine. To avoid the risk of the magnet moving metal contained in the body, it will not be safe for you to be scanned if you have a:
- Cardiac pacemaker
- Cochlear Implant
It may not be safe for you to be scanned if you have one of the following:
- Cerebral Aneurysm Clip
- Metal in your eyes
- Artificial Heart Valve
- Pregnancy (in first 3 months)
- Infusion Pump.
Please ensure you advise our booking staff if you have a pacemaker, cochlear implant, or another surgical device in your body when you book, or if you have ever been exposed to metallic foreign bodies around your eyes. If you are pregnant, you must inform our staff prior to your examination.
While some patients can experience fear of confined spaces (claustrophobia), the MRI room layout and décor is designed to minimise this. If you have any concerns about having an MRI scan, please discuss these with our friendly staff before undergoing the process.
How much does an MRI cost?
We bulk bill all Medicare-eligible MRI scans as part of our commitment to providing affordable and accessible healthcare. Bulk billing means no gap payment and no unexpected out-of-pocket expenses. Please check if your scan is Medicare-eligible when booking, as Medicare has very specific guidelines about which examinations are eligible for rebate.
● For patients older than 16 years of age, Medicare will cover MRI scans of the brain, spine, and knees where GP referred. This applies only to certain conditions.
● For patients younger than 16 years of age, additional scans are eligible for a rebate, where GP referred. These include scans of the head (brain and sinus), spine (cervical, thoracic, and lumbar), hips, elbows, and wrists. This applies only to certain conditions.
● Your specialist doctor can also refer certain adult patients for Medicare-eligible MRI scans
(applies to a limited number of conditions).
It is your choice where to have your MRI scan. Call us for an appointment with any referring doctor’s imaging request form.
Sometimes your doctor may require traditional large-format plastic images (‘hard films’). If so, let us know and we will print these for you – a small charge of $20 applies for these copies.
Fees apply where an MRI scan is not Medicare-eligible. Please ask our reception staff when booking if you are unsure about the eligibility of your scan.
What happens to my MRI scan results?
Your scan results are treated with strict confidentiality. Our radiologist or technician will talk to you before, during and after the examination, but may not be able to give you precise information about your condition prior to the finalization of the written report. A second radiologist may review your scan images. Adelaide MRI will issue your final report within 48 hours and send the results to your referring doctor, along with a digital copy of the scan. As the images are digital, they are stored on our computer system for future reference. You should always discuss your results with your doctor.