Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine

Photo of a standard MRI machine

Courtesy of Intermountain Medical Imaging, Boise, Idaho.

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 that are inside the body. During the MRI test (also called an MRI scan), you will lie on your back on a table that is part of the MRI scanner. Your head, chest, and arms may be held with straps to help you stay still. The table will then slide into the round opening of the magnet.

Inside the scanner you will hear a fan and feel air moving. You may also hear tapping or snapping noises as the MRI scans are done. It is very important to stay completely still while the scan is being done.

People who get nervous in small places (are claustrophobic) may need medicine to help them relax while having an MRI scan.

Last Updated: June 12, 2009

Author: Shannon Erstad, MBA/MPH

Medical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Howard Schaff, MD - Diagnostic Radiology

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