MRI: What to Expect

MRI is a noninvasive and painless procedure in which radio waves and powerful magnets linked to a computer are used to create remarkably clear and detailed pictures of organs and tissues inside the body, without the use of radiation. MRI is useful for diagnosing many conditions, including:

  • Cancer
  • Heart and vascular disease
  • Stroke and aneurysms
  • Brain trauma and tumors
  • Breast disease
  • Joint and musculoskeletal disorders
  • Spine disorders and injuries

Is MRI safe?

Yes. MRI is extremely safe, as long as proper precautions are taken with regard to metal objects (which can be attracted to the magnet). There is no exposure to radiation.

Before Your Exam

Before you arrive for your exam at The Allen Hospital, please have your doctor call (212) 932-4161 to schedule your exam. Remember to bring your requisition or prescription form from your doctor as well as your insurance card to the hospital when you register.

Certain types of metal in the area being scanned can cause significant errors, called artifacts, in the images. You will be asked to remove your jewelry, watch, hairpins, bobby pins, hearing aids, removable dental work, and glasses. The technologist and/or nurse will ask you questions about your medical history before you have your procedure, including:

  • Prior surgeries
  • Any implanted devices, plates, pins, or screws
  • Prior bullet or shrapnel injury
  • Whether you are pregnant
  • Any history of claustrophobia or feeling of claustrophobia during prior MRI exams

If you are extremely claustrophobic, check to see if it might be possible for you to receive a sedative before your exam.

During the Exam

An MRI exam is one of the easiest and most comfortable exams you can have.

  • After changing into a gown, the technologist will position you on a table that slides into the MRI machine.
  • A special coil may be placed over the area being examined to improve the quality of the images.
  • You will receive ear plugs to protect your ears from the noise of the machine and may be able to listen to music.
  • During the exam, the technologist can always see you and will talk to you as the scanner goes through a series of sequences.
  • You will be asked not to move during each actual imaging process, but between sequences some movement is sometimes allowed.
  • For some MRI studies, a contrast agent may be used to enhance the visibility of certain tissues or blood vessels. This drug is given intravenously (through a vein).

After the Exam

  • When the exam is over, you may be asked to wait until the images are reviewed to determine if more images are needed.
  • While very rare, some patients may experience a delayed response to the contrast media. Contact your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room if you suddenly experience trouble breathing; swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat; itching or hives; or any other sudden changes of concern.
  • Please seek medical care if you received a contrast agent and the injection site becomes red, painful to the touch, or hot to the touch, or if you develop a lump at the injection site.

When will I learn the results of my exam?

A radiologist will study the images from your exam and send a report of the findings to your designated healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider's office will contact you to discuss the results of your exam.

Will my insurance cover the exam?

Imaging tests are often covered by insurance, but coverage can vary depending on your insurance carrier, your plan, and the reasons for the examination. Before you have your MRI, please call the number on the back of your insurance card to determine if it will be covered. You will likely need pre-authorization for the exam.

Who do I call if I have questions or cannot keep my appointment?

Please call the Department of Radiology at NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital at (212) 932-4161.


NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital

5141 Broadway (at 220th Street)
New York, NY 10034
Telephone: 212-932-4161 or 4162, 866-NYP-ALLEN