An MRI Exam

An MRI exam is painless and you will not experience any discomfort or side effects of any kind. With the assistance of UPMC Western Maryland technologists, you are placed on a padded table and made as comfortable as possible. Blankets are available to help keep you comfortable.

The exam begins once the table slowly slides inside the opening of the magnet. Although you will not feel anything during the examination, you will hear a sound similar to a muted drumbeat. This sound occurs as images are being taken and range from barely noticeable to being rather loud. Please ask the team about reducing the noise level to make you more comfortable, if necessary.

Some examinations require the injection of a contrast medium, which is used to outline less dense, hollow vessels and organs for better visualization. The contrast medium is injected by the MRI technologist and feels similar to having blood drawn from your arm.

The entire exam lasts approximately 5-45 minutes. The technologist will be able to see and hear you at all times. Should you become uncomfortable at any time, please alert the technologist so they can assist.

In addition to standard MRI, Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) is a noninvasive technique used to evaluate blood flow and identify blockages in the arteries and blood vessels.

Magnets and Metals Don’t Mix

It is essential that the team know about all metallic devices that may be present inside your body. The following devices contain metal:

  • Pacemaker
  • Brain aneurysm clips
  • Inner ear implants
  • Heart valve
  • Neuro-stimulator or implants

If you have ever had metallic foreign bodies in your eyes or an injury to the eye involving a metallic object, you must have X-rays of the orbital area (the area of the face around the eye) prior to your MRI. This also applies if you have done sheet metal work, welding, or grinding. You should contact your primary care physician to make the arrangements for this examination.

Most individuals with post-surgical clips or prosthetic devices, other than the ones mentioned above, can be safely imaged. Please consult your physician or the MRI staff at the UPMC Western Maryland Diagnostic Center for any questions about your eligibility for an MRI.

Preparing for the Exam

For most MRI exams, no special preparation is required. Feel free to eat or drink prior to the examination and take any prescribed medications as usual. However, for an MRI of the abdominal area, do not eat or drink anything for 6 hours prior to the exam.


Please wear comfortable clothing, such as a sweat suit or another type of garments without metal snaps or zippers. All loose or foreign metal objects, such as jewelry or watches, will need to be removed before the exam begins.

If you are scheduled to be sedated for the procedure, you are not permitted to drive home after the exam. Please make arrangements for transportation home. Medications for pain or depression/anxiety or other types of “nerve pills” should not be taken the day of the test if you will be sedated.


Either you or your physician can make the appointment for an MRI. The physician will provide you with a written order, which you must bring the day of the examination. Individual insurance carriers may require a “referral” or “authorization” prior to the exam, so please check beforehand. Additionally, your insurance card is needed at registration.

Examination Reports

The results of an MRI will be available to your physician within 24 hours. Copies of the MRI study will be sent directly to your referring physician, who will notify you about the results. Please contact your physician with any questions.