Non-Invasive MRI | Radiology at UnityPoint Health - Des Moines

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UnityPoint Health - Des Moines


What is an MRI?

Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging is a procedure that uses a strong magnet, radio waves, and a computer to produce images of the internal body. MRI is a non-invasive, painless exam that is useful in diagnosing disorders of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), joints, abdomen, and circulatory system.

How to prepare for your exam

No preparation is needed unless otherwise instructed. Please arrive 30 minutes prior to your appointment to allow for registration. Wear comfortable clothing without metal. If claustrophobia is a concern, discuss this with the ordering physician to determine if oral medication prior to the exam is appropriate. Children may need to be sedated due to the length of time they must remain still. Pediatric sedations need to be scheduled, please call Iowa Methodist Medical Center at (515) 241 6675.

Metal and magnets

It is essential to maintain a safe magnet environment. Your physician and the MR technologist must be aware of any metallic devices present inside your body. These include: pacemakers and/or pacer wires, aneurysm clips, cochlear stimulating devices, and embedded shrapnel. Please bring your implant manufacturer's information card to your appointment if available. Any materials that might be affected or attracted by the powerful magnet used in the equipment should be left at home or given to the MR staff for safekeeping. This list includes your watch, coins, keys, bobby pins, credit cards, pocket knives, etc.

What happens during the exam

  • The technologist will ask you to lie on the padded table which will move inside a large tunnel-like magnetic housing. A receiver coil (device that delivers a radio frequency pulse)  will be positioned near the site to be examined.
  • Your cooperation in remaining as motionless as possible will produce quality images. You will be able to communicate with the technologist via an intercom during the entire exam.
  • During the examination you will hear loud noises ranging from grating to tapping. You may listen to music or wear/use earplugs to minimize the noise. You may bring a CD to listen to your favorite music while you have your scan.
  • When appropriate, an injection of an MRI contrast agent may be given. The mild discomfort of the injection is similar to having blood drawn from your arm.

After your exam

Following the 30 to 45 minute exam, you may resume normal activity. The results will be interpreted by a radiologist and forwarded to your physician. The radiologist uses x-rays to compare with the MRI. Therefore, it is very important to bring any x-rays that have been taken within the past 6 months to your appointment.