MRI

MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, which is a way of taking pictures of the inside of your body. MRI scans are a useful way to diagnose the causes of your pain or discomfort.

MRI is an advanced imaging technique which uses a very strong magnetic field and radio waves to produce high quality pictures of your body. These images are much more detailed than ordinary X-rays, and don’t use radiation. We may offer you an MRI scan when other types of scan haven’t given the full picture.

We perform a wide range of MRI scans, including head, spine, bowel, liver, kidneys, breast, bladder, blood vessels, nerves, muscles, ligaments and tendons.

The MRI Department at Harrogate District Hospital is equipped with two 1.5T Siemens MRI scanners, installed in 2014 and 2015. With the newest technology available, we are capable of producing imaging of the highest definition to ensure your diagnosis is as accurate as possible. This will aid treatment planning.

Before your scan

The waiting time for an MRI appointment is generally up to six weeks, but we will contact you if a short notice appointment becomes available. In the run-up to the scan, we will ask you to let us know if you have any metal inside you (such as a metal hip replacement). If so, we may need to look into this further before your scan.

Food and drink

Please read your appointment letter very carefully. It will contain important information, such as whether or not you can eat or drink before your scan. For most scans, you can eat and drink as normal, but for some we ask you to fast for six hours beforehand.

Clothing and valuables

Metal on clothing can spoil the scan images. We may ask you to change into a hospital gown and trousers. Alternatively, you may prefer to wear clothes without any metal to avoid needing to change.

Please try to leave valuable items at home. You will not be able to take keys, bank cards, money, watches or jewellery with you for the scan.

Friends and family

The waiting area in the MRI Department is very small, so please limit the number of people you bring with you. Unless informed otherwise on your appointment letter, you will be able to continue as normal after your scan, and so should be able to drive home as normal if necessary.

Unfortunately we are unable to offer childcare facilities. If you need to bring children with you, please ensure there is another adult to look after them as they cannot enter the scanning room with you.

During your scan

Each scan takes a different length of time. Most scans take around 30 minutes, but some take up to 90 minutes. Your radiographer can advise you on how long you’re likely to be in the Department.

When you arrive at the Department, you will be met by a radiographic assistant or a radiographer. He or she will measure your height and weight and go through your safety questions. Lockers are available for you to lock away your belongings.

Our staff are committed to ensuring you are comfortable, well-informed and consent to your treatment. If you feel unsure about the scan at any time, please tell the radiographer. You can change your mind at any time, but please note that not having the scan or postponing it will delay your diagnosis and treatment.

The scan

When you enter the scanning room, we will help position you on the MRI table for your scan. We lay equipment called coils around the body part that we are scanning. We will then move you into the scanner.

It’s very important that your whole body is still during the scan to avoid blurry pictures. The scanner is very noisy, and so you must wear headphones or ear plugs. We provide these, and also give you a buzzer to get our attention if you need us urgently during the scan.

If you feel particularly anxious, a friend or family room can accompany you in the scanning room. He or she must complete a safety questionnaire beforehand.

Injections

Most scans don’t require injections. However, sometimes we need to give you an injection of dye to look at the particular body part in more detail. The dye shows up clearly on our scans, allowing us to see blood vessels and tissues more easily.

The dye will be injected via a small cannula in the hand and shouldn’t cause any pain or discomfort. Most people don’t experience side effects but please do let us know if you’re feeling unwell. We will inform you if you require a dye injection.

For scans of the abdomen and pelvis, we may need to give you an injection of Buscopan, a smooth muscle relaxant. This reduces the bowel motion so we get a clear picture.

You may experience some side effects such as blurred vision and a dry mouth. These should wear off after 20 minutes, but please let us know if you’re still experiencing symptoms after this time. Please inform us immediately if you start to feel unwell.

After your scan

If you have a cannula, you will be required to wait in the Department for a short time until we have removed it. Once you’ve left the Department, you can continue with normal activities. If you have fasted, you can eat and drink as usual.

Results

Your images will be reviewed by our radiologists. The report will be released to your referring clinician up to two or three weeks later. Urgent cases are prioritised and results may be available sooner. If you haven’t already, please make arrangements with your clinician to collect your results.

Worries and anxieties

We understand that having an MRI scan can be a daunting experience, but we will do our best to ensure that you are as comfortable as possible.

MRI is a very safe procedure for most people. However, it is important to tell us about any previous surgery or accidents which might have involved the introduction of metal to your body before your scan. You will be asked to complete and sign a safety questionnaire before your scan.

Pregnant?

National safety guidelines recommend that we do not scan pregnant women unless the scan is clinically urgent. A discussion will take place between your doctor and our specialist imaging doctor to decide whether your scan should be performed while pregnant.  Despite this, many pregnant women have had scans safely with no reported problems.

Claustrophobic?

Don’t worry, you are not alone! Please call us to discuss your scan, and we can talk you through what to expect. In some cases we can offer an appointment to visit us prior to your appointment to discuss your scan in detail. Alternatively, contact your GP who may be able to prescribe a mild sedative to help you relax. Unfortunately we cannot prescribe this in the MRI Department.

If you are unable to have an MRI scan, our consultant radiologist may suggest an alternative form of imaging such as a CT or Ultrasound scan.

Opening times

Monday-Thursday: 8am-9pm

Friday-Sunday: 8am-6.30pm

(excluding bank holidays)

If you have any questions or concerns about your MRI scan please contact the MRI Department between 8am-6pm, Monday to Friday. If we’re unavailable to take your call, please leave a message on the answer machine and we will return your call as soon as possible.

Please note that some scans must be performed during normal working hours.

Location

The MRI Department is located on the ground floor of Harrogate District Hospital. Please follow the yellow line from the main reception.

Referral

We accept NHS patients with a referral from a GP or consultant. For private referrals please visit Yorkshire Radiology.

Key staff

Advanced Radiographers in MRI: Chris Burke and Hannah Whitaker