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MRI Scans

Our expert radiologists use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to offer precise diagnosis. We use advanced MRI technology to produce detailed images of internal organs (including the brain and heart), blood vessels, tissues, breasts, bones and joints. We also use MRI to help diagnose a variety of different conditions. The MRI machine uses a powerful magnet, radio frequencies and an advanced computer to produce images.

MRI Scans: Why Choose Us?

When you come to the Washington University Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, you will find:

  • Advanced technology: As an academic hospital, Barnes-Jewish has access to the latest and most advanced MR equipment, which means you get the clearest images and most accurate diagnosis possible.
  • Comprehensive facility: Barnes-Jewish Hospital has one of the largest MRI departments in the state. The hospital is also an accredited Comprehensive Stroke Center. The MRI team has instituted special protocols and standards to deal with emergency trauma situations.
  • Subspecialized experts: Within the MRI team, our radiologists are highly specialized and focus on specific areas of the body. For example, we are experts in breast MRI and MRI breast biopsies, with radiologists and technologists specially trained in this discipline. We also have radiologists who specialize in reading body and chest imaging. Meet our radiology team.
  • High safety standards: Patient safety is our number one goal. We have an MRI quality and safety committee that is constantly evaluating current trends in MRI technology and techniques so we can implement the latest changes in protocols and procedures.

MRI Scans: What to Expect

Here’s what you can expect when you come in for your MRI scan:

  • Contrast: Contrast is sometimes used with MRI procedures. We usually administer it intravenously (IV). A nurse or technologist will insert an intravenous line into a vein in your hand or arm.
  • MRI machine: The MRI machine looks like a large tube that is open on both ends with an exam table running through the opening. You lie on the table, and we place a device called a coil over the area we are scanning.
  • Lying still: An MRI technologist will help you onto the scanner table and make sure you are comfortable. You will need to lay flat for the entire exam. To produce the clearest images, you should remain as still as possible for the duration of the exam. We will move you into the scanner until the area of interest is in the center of the scanner.
  • Breathing instructions: If you are having an MRI of your chest or abdomen, you will need to follow the breathing instructions given by the technologist.
  • Noise level: As the procedure begins, you will hear a loud thumping or humming sound from the MRI machine. We will give you hearing protection, or you can bring your own music and headphones.
  • Communication during the exam: Throughout the MRI exam, the technologist will stay in contact with you and monitor you from the control room. In case of an emergency, you will be given a squeeze ball to notify the technologist that you need assistance.
  • Patients with claustrophobia: Moving into the MRI tube can feel scary or claustrophobic for some people. If you have claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces) or anxiety, ask your physician for a prescription to relax you before your MRI exam. Also, let the technologist know before starting your procedure if you have any concerns. Bring the medication with you to your appointment. Do not take these prescribed medications until you have completed all the paperwork, and the staff instructs you to take the medicine.
  • Length of exam: Most MRI scans take about 45 minutes, but some exams could run as long as 2 hours. When scheduling your appointment, ask for an estimate of how long yours will take. 

Preparing for Your MRI Appointment

Before you come in for an MRI scan, please follow this checklist:

  • Notify us of any implantable devices: If you have an implantable device from a previous surgery (such as a pacemaker, insulin pump, bullet fragments or neuro-stimulator), please notify the MRI department at the time your exam is scheduled.
  • Confirm your insurance coverage: Please confirm with your referring physician’s office that any precertification required by your insurance has been completed before your MRI appointment.
  • Food, drink and medication: Take your medication as you normally do, unless your physician has told you otherwise. You may eat and drink normally before an MRI unless otherwise directed by your physician.
  • Bring these documents to your appointment:
  • Special considerations: If you have a port or a central line, please bring your information card with you to your appointment. If your MRI has been scheduled with anesthesia, please arrive 1 hour prior to your MRI appointment time. You also must arrange for someone to drive you home after the exam.

Contact Us

New patients: To schedule an appointment, please call 314.362.7111 or toll free at 877.992.7111. Please note: You or your referring physician will need to provide a referral order before your appointment.

Current MRI patients: Please call the MRI department at 314.362.1695 with any questions about your MRI exam. Get all the patient information you need, including additional contact information and maps to our locations.

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