Information about your MRI Scan
Royal Adelaide Hospital MRI Unit
What is MRI?

MRI is a way of creating pictures of your body that does not use X-rays or radiation. The MRI machine makes pictures by organising and collecting the magnetic fields that naturally occur within the body. MRI pictures show the soft tissues of the body (muscles, nerves, brain, discs, ligaments etc). In many situations MRI offers unique information to help your doctor better plan your treatment and care.

During the scan you will be lying inside a large tubular machine. The Radiographers want you to be comfortable and will ask you to be very still during the scan because even slight movement can spoil the images and reduce their usefulness to you and your doctor.

The inside of the scanner is well lit, and has a fan to blow fresh air gently over you. Music is provided from an FM radio, or from tapes and CDs.

Most MR scans take between 25 and 60 minutes. The Radiographers will talk to you through an intercom system.

Preparation for MRI

In most cases there is no special preparation for an MRI scan. You can eat and drink normally on the day of the scan although it is best to avoid large amounts of coffee or other things that make you restless.

It is very important not to bring any metal into the scan room without letting the Radiographer know. Before the scan you will be asked to remove your watch, keys, coins, credit cards, bus tickets and phone cards. These can all be damaged by the strong magnet of the MRI scanner, or might cause distortions in the MRI pictures.

When you arrive at MRI, you will be asked a series of questions to find out if you have any metal or implants in your body.

Depending on what part of your body is being scanned, you may have to wear a cotton gown.

For some MRI scans we need to measure your heart beat by placing small dots and wires on your back or chest.

Pelvis MRI - Abdomen MRI Special Preparation

If you are having a scan of the abdomen or pelvis, do not eat or drink anything for 5 hours before the appointment. This is important to ensure high quality pictures.

Please Bring Old X-rays

You may have had other X-ray tests, Ultrasound, Thermography, or Nuclear medicine. These films can all be interpreted by the MRI Radiologist and greatly improve the relevance of the MRI report.

It is very important to bring old X-rays etc with you to the MRI scans so they can be reviewed. You may need to supply them before a full MRI report can be made.

Private films will be returned to your referring doctor with the new MRI images.

Getting Comfortable & Keeping Still

MRI images are very sensitive to movement. By keeping very still during the scan you can improve the quality of the images we obtain. We have found that the best way to keep still is to be relaxed, lying comfortably as if you were dropping off to sleep. The MRI Radiographer is very interested in making you comfortable in the scanner so that you feel settled, secure and relaxed, let them know what they can do for you and together you will ensure the best possible pictures.

Problems with MRI

It may not be possible, or safe, to have an MRI scan if you have any of these items:

Let the MRI Unit know well before your appointment if you have any of these. Experienced MRI staff will have to discuss the exact implant or metal with you to decide if it is safe to perform the scan.

Deciding which implants cannot be scanned takes special knowledge and experience. Please do not try to guess, and donít just rely on your doctor to determine if we can scan you.

Before the scan you will be asked a series of questions to check that it is safe for you to enter the scan room.

People with dental fillings and bridges, hip and knee replacements, and tubal ligation clips can all be scanned safely. The Radiographers will want to know about these things to minimise the effect they have on your images.


If you have experienced claustrophobia, or have trouble in enclosed spaces talk about it with the MRI staff before your appointment date.

For mild claustrophobia we find that the staff can help you to relax enough to get rid of the anxiety in a few minutes.

If your claustrophobia is severe you may need an anti-anxiety prescribed by your referring doctor or G.P. Staff at the MRI unit can be contacted about this and can offer your doctors some advise. You shouldn't drive after taking such drugs, so arrange a safe way to get home.

Because there are no side effects of MRI you can bring a friend into the scan room for support if that will help your anxiety. Children in particular should feel free to bring an adult in with them. Everyone coming into the scan room will be asked the questions about metal and implants.

Contrast Injections (Dye)

Most MRI tests do not need you to have an injection, but in some situations a contrast agent can greatly improve the accuracy of the scan. The contrast is injected into a vein, and the dose is quite small.

MRI contrast is not the same as X-ray contrast. Very few people notice when it is injected.


If you are pregnant or could be pregnant at the time of your scan appointment, please call us early so we can discuss the situation with you and consult your doctor.

MRI causes a slight heating of your body, so most MRI sites avoid scanning during the first 3 months of pregnancy unless the diagnosis cannot wait and the only alternate test uses X-rays. Beyond that period, MRI is still avoided if the diagnosis can wait till your child is born as a matter of extreme caution. In many sites around the world MRI is used to examine pregnant women and their babies to avoid the need for X-ray tests.

MRI contrast is not used during pregnancy.


MRI scans are usually not reported while you are at the MRI Unit. The images are filmed by the Radiographer who scans you, and then later interpreted by a specialist Radiologist. Their report is sent with the MRI films and any private films you brought along, to the doctor who referred you to us. This delivery usually takes several days. If you have an appointment very soon after your appointment, let us know and we will try to arrange faster reporting and delivery. The referring doctor can also ring MRI for results.

Who Pays?

Most MRI in Australia is paid for by Medicare, who will pay a benefit when a specialist requests the scan for one of a list of specific indications. The Commonwealth Medical Benefits scheduled fee is $475, with Medicare paying a benefit of $424.60 for outpatients and $365.25 for in-patients. The Royal Adelaide Hospital Unit uses your Medicare card to claim this benefit directly from Medicare. Most patients will not receive a bill for any gap, or need to send any forms in. Private inpatients are billed directly; your private health insurance company will usually cover the difference between the Medicare payment and the amount charged. Scans done in relation to Workcover or third party motor vehicle accident insurance are billed directly to the patient. In those cases Medicare will not pay a benefit and you are responsible for forwarding the claim to your insurer. The amount billed is equal to the benefit paid by these insurance systems so again you should not be out of pocket.

If you are a visitor to Australia not covered by Medicare, you will be sent an account.

The Royal Adelaide Hospital MRI unit also performs a range of advanced procedures that are not funded by Medicare. These examinations are performed at our expense and the patient is not sent a bill.

If you have any queries regarding your account please contact the Senior Radiographer on 882224700

Want To Know More?

If you have any questions about the MRI scan or our service, please give us a call on (08) 82225417. You can also help us by offering suggestions for this information sheet, which is updated regularly.

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Last Revised: November 10, 1998 01:23 PM