How Long Does an MRI Take?

If you have been told that you need an imaging procedure, there are a lot of options that the doctor may use. Some of the most common imaging modalities that medical professionals may order include ultrasounds, X-Ray images, PET scans, CT scans, and MRIs. One of the most popular imaging modalities is an MRI. If you have been told that you are going to get an MRI in the near future, you probably have a lot of questions that you would like to have answered. One question that you may be asking is how long an MRI takes. There are a few important points to keep in mind.


What Is an MRI?

Before you agree to have an MRI done, it is important for you to understand what this is. MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. As the name suggests, this imaging modality uses incredibly powerful magnets to generate an image.

When your body is put through an MRI scan, the magnets are going to cause the individual nuclei of the atoms in your body to spin in a certain manner. The different manners in which these nuclei spin are going to generate an image. When compared to other imaging modalities, the image is going to be highly detailed, allowing the doctor to see certain things in your body that might not have been noticed otherwise.

The Timing of an MRI

It is difficult to predict exactly how long an MRI is going to take. There are a lot of factors that are going to play a role. In general, an MRI is going to take significantly longer than an ultrasound, an x-ray, or a CT scan. Most of these imaging procedures take a few seconds to be completed.

On the other hand, this doesn’t necessarily mean that an MRI is going to take an extended amount of time. Some of the factors that you need to consider if you are trying to figure out how long your MRI is going to take include:

  • Can You Stay Still During the Procedure: If you are able to remain still during the procedure, it is going to be completed much faster. If you, or your family member getting the image, is unable to remain still during the procedure, then anesthesia may have to come and put you to sleep for the procedure. This is going to add to the time of the procedure because you have to be put to sleep and woken back up again.
  • The Size of the Body Part Being Imaged: Another factor that will play a role and how long the MRI is going to take is the size of the body part being imaged. For example, if you are just receiving an MRI of your head, this may be completed in about 15 to 20 minutes. On the other hand, if you are receiving an MRI of your entire body, this could take a couple of hours.
  • The Detail of the MRI: In addition, the detail level of the MRI is also going to play a role. In some cases, the doctor may be ordering something called a FAST MRI. As the name suggests, the point of this MRI is to dramatically shorten the time it takes to complete the procedure. Even though the quality of the image may not be as high, the doctor may have decided that he or she does not need the same level of detail. Therefore, it is okay if the procedure is a little bit shorter.

All of these factors are going to play a role in how long your MRI is going to take. It is important for you to understand some of the benefits and drawbacks of an MRI as well.

The Benefits an MRI

It is important to take a look at some of the pros and cons of an MRI. There are several benefits of an MRI procedure. These include:

  • The level of detail of an MRI is incredibly high
  • An MRI uses magnets to generate an image instead of radiation, preventing the development of long-term complications
  • An MRI scan is much better for soft tissue contrast and can effectively differentiate between muscle, water, and fat, where other imaging modalities fall short

On the other hand, there are a few instances where an MRI would not be indicated. These include:

  • An MRI scan can be noisy for the patient and can be expensive, depending on the insurance status of the patient
  • When compared to other imaging scans, an MRI takes much longer to be completed
  • Patients with metal in their body are unable to receive an MRI scan

The doctor should review the benefits and drawbacks of the MRI scan with the patient before ordering it.

How Long Does it Take To Get MRI Scan Results?

After the procedure is done, patients are going to want to receive the results as quickly as possible. It takes a few minutes to develop the image. Then, the image has to be sent to the radiologist where it can be read. The radiologist will take a look at every single frame of the image. Then, he or she will upload the results of the system, where it can be reviewed by that doctor who ordered it. That is when the patient will receive the results of the scan.

Get Ready for Your MRI

If you have an MRI scan in the near future, then make sure that you are ready for the image. Feel free to ask any questions you have before the procedure. That way, you will be prepared for what will happen on the day of the scan.

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