Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a painless, safe and radiation-free diagnostic test that uses radio waves, magnetic fields and computer software to create highly detailed cross-sectional images of the brain, nerves, spinal cord, bones, joints, breasts, abdominal and pelvic organs.
Emerson Hospital has invested in state-of-the-art MRI equipment, and offers MRI scans at the Yeatts Radiology Center on our main campus in Concord, and at the Westford Health Center.
Why an MRI scan is performed
MRI is most often used for:
- Brain and spinal cord imaging to diagnose aneurysms, multiple sclerosis, stroke, spinal cord injuries, tumors, traumatic brain injury
- Imaging of the heart and blood vessels to assess the size and function of the heart's chambers, thickness and movement of the heart’s walls, extent of damage caused by heart attack/heart disease, structural problems in the aorta, inflammation or blockages in the blood vessels
- Imaging of other internal organs to check for tumors or other abnormalities
- Imaging of bones and joints to detect abnormalities, bone infections or tumors
- Breast imaging (in addition to mammography) to detect breast cancer, especially in women with dense breast tissue or who are at high risk of the disease)
What an MRI scan involves
The MRI scanner looks like a long tube with both ends open. You lie down on a movable table that slides into the tube. A technologist monitors you from another room, and you can talk with the technologist by microphone.
The MRI scanner creates a strong magnetic field around you, and radio waves are directed at your body. You don't feel either the magnetic field or radio waves.
During the MRI scan, the magnet makes repetitive tapping or thumping noises. Earplugs or music may be provided to help block the noise. In addition, we have a Cinemavision system at our Concord location so you can watch broadcast TV and DVDs, or listen to CDs, radio or MP3 players, during your exam.
To enhance the imaging detail, a contrast material, typically gadolinium, may be injected through an intravenous (IV) line into a vein in your hand or arm.
Your doctor carefully evaluates your individual risk when considering the use of gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCAs) to minimize the chance of gadolinium retention (a buildup of this substance in the body). We look at whether you require multiple lifetime doses, you are pregnant, have an inflammatory condition, or the patient is a child, and will use a GBCA only when absolutely necessary. We aim to minimize repeated GBCA imaging studies whenever possible, especially if they’re performed close together. However, we don’t want to avoid any GBCA MRI scan that is medically necessary.
If you require a gadolinium contrast agent, you’ll be given these comprehensive medication guides that explains in more detail how this material works.
An MRI can last anywhere from 15 minutes to more than an hour, and you must lie very still since movement can blur the images.
If you feel claustrophobic or have some anxiety about having an MRI, you may ask your doctor to prescribe a mild sedative you can take for the appointment. If you do so, please plan for someone to drive you home after your exam. Our Cinemavision system also helps provide distraction during your exam.
Special considerations for an MRI exam
Because of the strong magnetic field of an MRI exam, certain conditions or the presence of metal in your body (such as a pacemaker or other implanted device) may prevent you from having this test. You will be asked a series of questions by our staff when scheduling your appointment; for your safety, please be completely honest so we can determine if this is the right diagnostic imaging exam for you.
When scheduling your appointment and prior to your exam, please alert our staff and technologist to the following conditions that may apply to you. The radiology staff will let you know whether you can have the MRI exam and whether the exam needs to be modified for your particular condition.
- History of kidney problems
- Skin tattoos
- Neurostimulators (TENS-unit)
- Implanted drug infusion device, such as an insulin pump
- Exposure of metal fragments to your eye
- Artificial heart valves
- Aneurysm clips
- Cochlear implants
- Metallic implants and prostheses
- Vascular stent or stent graft
- History as a metal worker
- Shrapnel or bullet wounds
- Dorsal column stimulators
- Allergy to iodine or gadolinium
- History of diabetes
- Other conditions you believe to be relevant
To obtain test results
By law, this requires a signed medical records release form
and photo identification. To make a request, please call:
SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT
Call 978-287-3003 to schedule an appointment for an MRI.