MRI Frequently Asked Questions

What time should I arrive for my MRI and where should I go?

Plan to arrive 30 to 60 minutes before the time the exam is scheduled. You will be given a specific time to arrive for your exam and be told whether to report directly to registration or the MRI department.

How long will the MRI exam take?

MRI exams take 30 to 45 minutes. It may take more, or less, time depending on what part of the body is being studied.

What should I expect when I arrive for the MRI exam?

Please be sure to arrive on time for your exam.

Upon your arrival you will be given an MRI screening form to complete ensure it is safe for you to enter the MRI suite. It is important that this information is as accurate as possible.

  • Please expect to be asked to change into hospital attire for your MRI exam.
  • Piercings will need to be removed if present within the body area being scanned and must be nonmagnetic.
  • Be sure to inform MRI technologist of any chance of pregnancy and if you have any tattoos.

I'm claustrophobic. How far will I go into the MRI scanner?

MRI units have become faster, shorter and more open with new state-of–the art technology, reducing some of that confined feeling. In order to get the best pictures possible, the part of the body being studied has to be in the middle of the scanner. Thus, if you are having a brain MRI, your head will have to be in the middle of the scanner. If you are having an ankle MRI, your ankle will be in the scanner, but your head will not be. If you have severe claustrophobia, ask your doctor for some medication to help you relax during the scan. Please have someone accompany you who can drive you home if you do take any medication.

We also offer an open MRI, which has a wider gantry to help alleviate feelings of claustrophobia, at the Lifespan Medical Imaging Portsmouth Imaging Center.

Learn more about Lifespan's open MRI 

Do I really have to hold still during an MRI?

Yes. An MRI exam is composed of a series of images. Each series takes 2 to 5 minutes. Any movement during this time causes the pictures to be "blurry" and limits the radiologist's ability to interpret the study. Also, we focus the exam on a specific part of the body. If you move, the area we are focusing on may no longer be in the proper position.

I have metal in my body from prior surgery. Can I have an MRI?

Most people who have metal in their body after surgery can have an MRI. For example, patients with hip or knee replacements can have an MRI after surgery, though some implanted devices require some time after surgery. Certain devices can never go into the MRI machine. Heart pacemakers (unless MRI safe), and some implanted pumps and nerve stimulators cannot go, or require specific conditions to go, in the MRI scanner. Some brain aneurysm clips (particularly older ones) might not go into the scanner. We would need more specific information: type, where and when the clip was placed. If you have had any prior surgery, you must let the technologist know prior to the scan. Also, if there is any chance there may be metal in any part of your body from a prior injury or from grinding metal, please inform the scheduler at time of booking and technologist prior to the scan.

How and when will I get the results of the MRI exam?

After the scan is finished, one of our board-certified radiologists will interpret the study and send a report to your doctor within 24 hours. Results will also be available on MyLifespan.