First Timer’s Guide to an MRI Scan

Pep talk

Patient co-operation is important for obtaining high-quality images and their initial chat with MR staff can make all the difference. At Quantum, our MR radiographers are obliged to counsel all patients undergoing an MR scan. This includes explaining the nature of the exam and guide patients complete a screening questionnaire to assess safety and suitability for the exam. We try our best to address all your valid concerns and expectations before the exam and help to put you at ease.

Gearing up

As you know, the MR scanner is a large magnet. So, no metals are allowed inside. Do remove all metallic objects, jewellery, watches and credit cards. Store them in the locker at the changing room. You will change into a gown which can be found in the changing room.


Just before you enter the scan room, our MR staff will confirm that you are the correct patient with the correct identity, and that the correct body region is to be scanned. In particular, they will pay close attention where ‘right’ or ‘left’ is specified in the request form. Sometimes, our MR staff will mark the area to be scanned with vitamin E or a cod liver oil capsule especially when interrogating a lump, to ensure correct positioning. This is because, some lumps can be there one minute and gone the next!

‘The Ride’

Welcome to our MR scanner, the GE Signa Explorer. It is shaped like a huge donut and its core looks somewhat like Tie Advance (Star Wars), Darth Vader’s spacecraft, but we assure you it is not that scary.

For starters, our MR radiographer will choose a suitable coil to cover the area to be scanned. A coil acts like an antenna where it receives and/ or transmits signal, necessary for production of the MR images by the computer. You will then be positioned comfortably on the couch lying down, usually face up, and the region to be scanned will be moved to the center of the scanner. We will put on ear plugs as ear defenders for you, to block out the noise which will be made by the scanner when it is scanning. You will also be armed with a hand-held alarm button just in case you need to summon us through intercom at any one time during the scan. Last but not least, you may want to immerse in your favourite music via our MR compatible headphones connected to Spotify for a no-frills MR ‘adventure’.

End of ‘The Ride’

Once the exam ends and the couch slides out of the MR scanner, you would have realised that the MR journey was really under control. You will be escorted from the MR room and will need to retrieve your personal possessions from the locker.

The exam will be reported by a radiologist once the several hundreds of images are sent from the computer in the MR console room to a picture archiving system. The report containing the findings and diagnosis will be conveyed to the referring doctor via hardcopy. The patient usually has a follow-up appointment with the referring doctor to discuss the diagnosis and follow-up tests or treatment.

Not quite nitty gritty

MR safety

All patients will be observed during the entire exam, either through the observation window from the control room and/ or by CCTV. Our intercom will enable a 2-way audible communication between you in the scanner and the MR radiographer in the control room.

Dial up the magic

For some scans, an MR contrast agent, usually a gadolinium compound, may be required so an abnormality is better defined and shows up more clearly. This involves a small injection and at Quantum, is usually performed by the specialist on-site.

No fear

Some patients are worried before the scan. Some show signs of claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces) as the couch makes its way to the center of the scanner. These are not uncommon and to us, there is always a solution to any problem. You can be assured that our MR radiographers who take you through the scan are certified in the equipment he or she operates and have been compassionate in managing patients’ fears. This group of patients come to Quantum nervous about the experience but leave feeling well cared for.
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