What We Do

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive procedure used to take pictures of the inside of the body. With the use of very powerful magnets in conjunction with radio waves, MRI is able to produce an image that relies on the magnetic properties of atoms rather than radiation. Various tissues, bones and nerves in the body have a different amount of water in them, and this creates different shades of gray in the pictures.

MRI appointments are scheduled 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You may have an appointment after normal business hours or on the weekend. You will receive a letter with your appointment time, location and any preparations you may have to do. We will also call you and confirm your MRI before your appointment.​

 Materials and Resources to Help You

Resources from the Patient & Family Education Program

Visit our Health Information section to find dedicated resources to help you understand your condition. Find the information you're looking for.​​

 Your Procedure

How to Prepare

For most MRI scans there is no preparation. If you are required to prepare for your test in any way you will be notified on your appointment letter or by the appointment scheduler.

Checking In

When you arrive at the Medical Imaging Department, check in at the reception desk. The receptionist may ask you:

  • For your Mount Sinai or Women's College Hospital card
  • For your health card (OHIP card), or another form of government-issued photo ID, such as a passport or driver's license.

If your appointment is at Mount Sinai Hospital or Women's College Hospital, you will need to allow extra time before your appointment to get a card for that hospital.

Before the MRI

When you arrive at the Medical Imaging Department, check in at the reception desk. The technologist will come to get you from the waiting room when it's time for your scan. You'll be asked to change into a hospital gown and to remove any jewellery or other metal objects you may be wearing.

Next, you'll be given a questionnaire. You'll have to complete this and review it with a technologist each time you have an MRI. It tells us about you so we can ensure your safety.

A technologist will then explain the procedure to you, which varies, depending on what type of scan you're having.

You may be given a contrast injection. This is a special dye given through a vein (through an IV) to help the team see the vessels clearly and show abnormal areas that may be a sign of disease. When you're given the contrast, you may feel a cool sensation in your arm. This is absolutely normal.

There's a small risk of being allergic to the dye, but it's normally mild in nature and may be hives or a rash. If you notice this after the injection, please notify the technologist.

Before leaving the department, the technologist will give you a contrast reaction card. It's rare, but some people may also have an allergic reaction to the dye a few days after the MRI. If you notice any hives, itching or rashes on your skin, please go to your family doctor or the nearest emergency room. Take the contrast reaction card with you.

After the reaction has been treated, call the number below to have your allergy added to your medical record. Tell us your name, your doctor's name and your hospital number (MRN number on your blue hospital card).

During and After the MRI

The MRI scanner is a tunnel with open ends. The part of your body to be examined will be placed at the centre, and then a technologist will put a piece of equipment on top. It works like an antenna and helps create the pictures the scanner takes.

You'll be given headphones or earplugs to wear while you're inside the scanner because the machine is quite noisy. The technologist will speak to you through the headphones or speaker during the procedure, and you'll get a buzzer to squeeze in case you urgently need the technologist.

It's common to feel a bit warmer than normal while you're in the scanner. If any one area of your body feels uncomfortably warm, squeeze the emergency buzzer.

You'll need to hold very still because the scanner is sensitive to motion. You may need to hold your breath for a few seconds during some procedures. The technologist will tell you when to do so.

If you're very uncomfortable in small spaces or claustrophobic, please talk to your doctor before your MRI appointment. You may be able to take medication to help you during the MRI. But if you take a sedative before the exam, you won't be able to drive, so we ask that you bring someone to take you home.

The Results of Your MRI

After the scan pictures are taken, a radiologist writes a report on what was found and sends it to your electronic health record. Then your doctor can review it and give you the results.

Please keep in mind that the technologist can't give you the results when your scan is finished.

How Long Will Your Appointment Be?

The length of your appointment will vary depending on what kind of procedure you're having. On average, an MRI appointment takes 1 to 2 hours. This includes about 30 minutes of preparation, including filling out the questionnaire and speaking with the technologist. The time in the scanner room usually takes about 30 to 90 minutes.

We do our best to stay on time. Unfortunately, your appointment may be delayed by unforeseen circumstances. We recommend that you come prepared for delays.​

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