MRI: All your questions answered

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a test that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make pictures of organs and structures inside the body. In many cases the MRI gives different information about structures in the body than can be seen with an X-ray, ultrasound, or computed tomography (CT) scan. An MRI also may show problems that cannot be seen with other imaging methods.

For an MRI test, the area of the body being studied is placed inside a special machine that contains a strong magnet. Pictures from an MRI scan are digital images that can be saved and stored on a computer for more study. The images also can be reviewed remotely, such as in a clinic or an operating room. In some cases, contrast material may be used during the MRI scan to show certain structures more clearly.

The MRI is a non-invasive procedure, and there are no known side- or after-effects. The procedure is used for all parts of the body. The procedure is painless and, in fact, you won't feel anything. A faint knocking sound will be heard, which is simply the imaging process in operation.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is done for many reasons. It is used to find problems such as tumors, bleeding, injury, blood vessel diseases, or infection. The MRI also may be done to provide more information about a problem seen on an X-ray, ultrasound scan, or a CT scan. Contrast material may be used during MRI to show abnormal tissue more clearly. An MRI scan can be done for the:

  •  Head: The MRI can check the brain for tumors, an aneurysm, bleeding in the brain, nerve injury, and other problems, such as damage caused by a stroke. An MRI can also find problems in the eyes and optic nerves, and the ears and auditory nerves.
  • Chest: An MRI of the chest can look at the heart, the valves, and coronary blood vessels. It can show if the heart or lungs are damaged. An MRI of the chest may also be used to look for breast or lung cancer.
  • Blood vessels: Using an MRI to look at blood vessels and the flow of blood through them is called magnetic resonance angiography (MRA). It can find problems of the arteries and veins, such as an aneurysm, a blocked blood vessel, or the torn lining of a blood vessel (dissection). Sometimes contrast material is used to see the blood vessels more clearly.
  • Abdomen and pelvis: An MRI can find problems in the organs and structures in the belly, such as the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, kidneys, and bladder. It is used to find tumors, bleeding, infection, and blockage. In women, it can look at the uterus and ovaries. In men, it looks at the prostate.
  • Bones and joints: An MRI can check for problems of the bones and joints, such as arthritis, problems with the temporomandibular joint, bone marrow problems, bone tumors, cartilage problems, torn ligaments or tendons, or infection. The MRI may also be used to tell if a bone is broken when X-ray results are not clear. An MRI is done more commonly than other tests to check for some bone and joint problems.
  • Spine: The MRI can check the discs and nerves of the spine for conditions such as spinal stenosis, disc bulges, and spinal tumors.

What should I expect in an MRI?
The MRI procedure will last anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the study requested by your physician. To conduct the MRI study, a technologist will assist you on to a padded, moveable scanning table. The magnet is open on both sides and the technologist will easily see you at all times.

During the exam it is important that you remain still. During the scan, you will not experience anything unusual. There is a faint knocking sound, which represents the magnetic field. After the exam you may resume all normal activities.

Depending on the study ordered by your physician, some MRI exams require the injection of a contrast agent called Gadolinium. Gadolinium is an organic compound and does not contain iodine. This is only used when the radiologist and/or referring physician have determined that it is necessary for diagnostic purposes. Gadolinium contrast highlights specific organs, blood vessels or tissue to better show the presence of disease or injury. This is injected into a vein in your arm.

Most people will not need sedation. If it is determined to be necessary, we may contact your physician who ordered this exam for a prescription. You should not operate a motorized vehicle for the remainder of the day if sedation is used.

How do I prepare for an MRI?
Special preparation is not required for most MRI exams. If you are having an MRI of the abdomen you will be asked not to eat or drink 4 hours prior to the exam. Continue to take medication prescribed by your doctor unless otherwise directed.

In preparation for your MRI you may be asked to remove make-up and dentures depending on the study. In some cases, you may also be asked to wear a hospital gown to avoid magnetic interference from fabrics, belt buckles and zippers.

Once you are situated on the table, make sure you are comfortable so that it is easy to keep still. Breathe normally. There is nothing about the procedure to make you uncomfortable. Once the exam is over, the technologist will assist you out of the scan room.

Patient Safety Guidelines:
MRI imaging involves the use of a strong magnetic field. This magnetic field pulls on many metal objects.

Patients with pacemakers or neuro-stimulators cannot have an MRI. Patients who have had an incident of metal in their eye will need X-rays taken of their eyes prior to the MRI to make sure no metal remains in eye.

MRI Scans may not be conducted on people with cardiac pacemakers, defibrillators and stimulators, some types of aneurysm clips in the brain, some types of heart valves and some types of metallic implants. Please let your doctor and South City Hospital Radiology know if you have had surgery involving the implantation of any metal, electronic or mechanical devices.

While continuing research indicates the safety of MRI during pregnancy, it is important to let your doctor and technologist know if you are pregnant or suspect that you are.

Patient Preparation & Instruction

1. Please arrive, at least 15 minutes prior to your appointment time, for exam registration. The receptionist will ask you to fill out the MRI Patient history/safety form.

2. Bring physician referrals or prescription. It is helpful to bring previous studies (CT scans, x-rays, MRI, ultrasound & lab tests) so that we could better interpret and plan your MRI examination.

3. For your safety, Please inform the MRI technologist if you have any implants, prosthetic devices or physical conditions listed below:

  • Metal implants, of any kind, such as pins, screws or clips
  • Artificial heart valves
  • Artificial limbs
  • Cochlear, otologic (ear) implants
  • Brain aneurysm clips
  • Cardiac stents
  • Transdermal (through the skin) medication patches
  • Stimulators or implanted drug infusion pumps
  • Harrington rods or prosthesis
  • Any metal in or on your body from items such as tattooed eyeliner or body piercings
  • Intrauterine device (IUD) or diaphragm
  • If you are or might be pregnant or if you are breastfeeding

4. On the day of the exam, do not wear any metal on your body. This includes jewelry, hairpins, safety pins, belts with metal buckles, brassieres with under-wire or metal snaps, etc. You will be asked to remove your glasses, hearing aids, non-permanent dentures or other metal dental appliances such as retainers.

5. Please leave valuables items in your vehicle or with a trusted person. You cannot bring items such as keys, wallets, rings, cell phones, etc. into the scan room.

6. You will be asked to change into a patient gown.

7. The MRI technologist will help you on the scan table and position you for the exam. During the exam you will hear a knocking sound. The study takes 30-45 minutes depending on the type of scan required. The scan is very sensitive to motion. If you move even a little during the scan, the entire scan may need to be repeated.

If you have any question, please call the
South City Hospital (Pvt.) Ltd.
Department of Radiology
ST-1, Block-3, Shahrah-e-Firdousi, Clifton,
Karachi-75600, Pakistan
Telephone: (dir) 92-21-35292707, 92-21-35862301-03 Ext. 242
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , Website:



Dr Wasey Jilani
Dr.Wasey Mahmud Jilani
Fellowship in Diagnostic Radiology,
College of Physicians & Surgeons Pakistan,
Fellowship in Vascular Interventional Radiology

Monday to Saturday

10am to 5pm

Nasir / Salman
(+92)213 529 2707