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What is an MRI?

An MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, is a radiology scan that produces detailed pictures of the inside of your body.

What are MRIs for?

Your doctor may recommend an MRI to look for abnormalities in your soft tissues, like ligaments and tendons, your brain and spinal cord, or other organs. It can be used to diagnose a problem or monitor treatment.

How long does an MRI take?

MRIs typically last 15-90 minutes. The length of time depends on how much of the body is being scanned and how many images are being taken.

What does “with contrast” mean for an MRI?

During an MRI with contrast, a gadolinium- or iodine-based dye is injected into your arm prior to the procedure for better visualization of your internal organs. “Without contrast” refers to MRIs done without this dye.

Types of Protocols

Protocols are the details and plans that describe how a specific procedure will be performed. For MRIs, this usually means whether the imaging is performed with or without contrast. However, certain body parts may include other protocol options as well.

If you already have a referral, the type of protocol you need should be written directly on it. If you don’t have a referral, you can book one through Tripment Health.

With Contrast – An MRI with contrast helps radiologists get a better picture of what’s going on inside your body. Contrast can highlight abnormalities and also improve the overall clarity of the images, thus improving the accuracy of the procedure. Contrast MRIs are often ordered to examine blood flow, inflammation, and tumors.

If you order an MRI with contrast, you will be injected with a gadolinium- or iodine-based dye before the imaging procedure begins. Although it is rare, some patients report mild nausea, dizziness, or even skin rashes, though these symptoms typically resolve within an hour. Your body will eliminate this dye over the next few days, either by absorbing it or expeling it through urination.

Without Contrast – An MRI without contrast simply means you are not injected with the contrast dye. These MRIs are most often ordered to examine your organs and bones after injury, or when a patient has low-functioning kidneys or is pregnant.

With and without contrast – By selecting “with and without contrast,” your search will include results from imaging centers who provide both types of MRIs.

Arthrogram – Arthrograms are used to study joints. During arthrography, a doctor injects the contrast dye directly into the joint, then a series of images are taken of the joint in multiple positions. This can help reveal tears in the soft tissue, or other damage.

MRCP – A magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) procedure is used to examine the biliary and pancreatic system, including the liver, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts, and pancreatic ducts. This is most commonly ordered to look for gallstones.

Preparation for Examination

How do I prepare for an MRI?

Typically, you don’t need to do anything special for an MRI. Depending on the part of your body being scanned, your doctor may ask you to fast for a few hours before the procedure. Once you get to the imaging center, your doctor will ask you to remove all metal objects from your body, like jewelry, hairpins, or change from your pockets.

How do I prepare for an MRI with contrast? 

During an MRI with contrast, a gadolinium- or iodine-based dye is injected into your arm prior to the procedure for better visualization of your internal organs. You would prepare for this procedure the same way you would prepare for an MRI without contrast, except you will also receive an injection. 

Preparing a child for an MRI

MRIs are painless procedures, but they can be intimidating for children. The MRI machine makes a lot of loud, unfamiliar sounds, and the child might not be able to see the parent during the procedure. You and your child can practice lying still before the appointment, so your child can get a better idea of what to expect. In some cases, your provider may recommend sedating your child, but this is not common. 

Referral document

Need a referral?

Diagnostic imaging can find fractures and broken bones, reveal infections and certain cancers before they spread, and help you live a longer, healthier life. Most diagnostic imaging services require a referral. Let us help you find one!

Get a Referral
Referral document

Why People Love Tripment


The purpose of an MRI is to view the inside of your body to detect medical abnormalities, such as tumors or organ damage.

You can perform an MRI on almost any part of the body. MRIs are most commonly done on the brain and spinal cord, bones and joints, heart and blood vessels, as well as the liver, prostate, and womb.

Depending on whether you are prescribed an MRI with contrast or without, you would begin with either a gadolinium-based dye injection into your arm, or proceed directly to lying down on the bed. The bed will slide into the scanner, where you will be asked to lie very still. You will have direct communication with the trained radiographer throughout the procedure. The machine will produce a lot of noise and you may be asked to wear earplugs.

MRIs produce a three-dimensional anatomical black-and-white image. It will be read by your physician and explained to you in detail.

An MRI takes up to 90 minutes, but can be as short as 15 minutes. In some rare cases, depending on the area of the procedure, it can last up to 2 hours.

You cannot schedule an MRI without a doctor’s order, so you must first get a referral. If you are having trouble finding a doctor, Tripment Health can help match you with a healthcare provider in your area. During the scheduled MRI, you should make sure to remove all jewelry or metal from your body. Please make sure to refrain from using deodorant, perfume, or lotions before you arrive at the medical center, as these particles could compromise the clarity of the images. You may eat normally and continue to use any medication.

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