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Patient Information


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What is an MRI?
Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, is a medical imaging procedure used to look inside your body. It is non-invasive and uses radio waves, a strong magnet and a computer to provide details of specific parts of your body. There is no harmful ionizing radiation from an MRI.

How does it work?
An MRI machine uses a powerful magnetic field to align the magnetization of some
atoms in the body, and radio frequency fields to systematically alter the alignment
of this magnetization. This causes the nuclei to produce a rotating magnetic field detectable by the scanner—and this information is recorded to construct an image of
the scanned area of the body. Strong magnetic field gradients cause nuclei at different locations to rotate at different speeds, which permits the generation of 3-dimensional images.

MRI provides good contrast between the different soft tissues of the body, which makes it especially useful in imaging the brain, muscles, the heart, and cancers compared with other medical imaging techniques such as computed tomography (CT) or X-rays. Unlike CT scans or traditional X-rays, MRI uses no ionizing radiation.

While the pictures are acquired, you will hear a variety of repetitive tapping or knocking sounds.

Why have an MRI?
Your primary care doctor, or a specialist, will determine if you need an MRI. He or she may choose an MRI as a way to better understand the nature of a medical problem.

MRI provides valuable information that may not be available with other methods. MR images give exquisite detail of soft tissue structures such as the brain and spinal cord, as well as ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and bones in the skeletal system. Internal organs are also very well visualized. Changes in any tissue structure can reveal the source of a problem.

What does an MRI look like?
Below is an MRI of a knee of a patient with a torn meniscus, a bit of cartilage that acts like a cushion between the bones forming the knee that allows the knee to bend normally. The image on the left was acquired on a 1.5T scanner while the one on the right was acquired on a 3T scanner. You will appreciate the fact that 3T images can often take less time to acquire than those acquired on a 1.5T scanner. Having your MRI at 3T means that you can be in the scanner for a shorter period of time compared to 1.5T scanner available at most other imaging facilities. In addition, your doctor will appreciate the higher image quality that is provided by the 3T scan.

Patient Image

Is it safe?
MRI is considered a very safe procedure. We carefully screen all patients and visitors before they can enter the scan room.
The high magnetic field of the MRI scanner makes it necessary for us to ask about and evaluate any and all metal you might have inside or outside of your body. Many surgically implanted devices are safe for MRI, but a few are not. We will also ask you about past injuries involving metal in the eye or other areas of the body including old shrapnel injuries. For your safety, it is important that you report the presence of any metallic implants or embedded metal from past surgeries and/or injuries to the MR staff. We investigate each individual situation with great care to determine safety. Because of the strong magnetic field, please inform us about the following devices that you might have so that we may assess your status:

  • Implanted Pacemakers or Defibrillators
  • Cochlear Implants
  • Epicardial pacing wires or implanted neurostimulator wires
  • Harrington Rods
  • Active Bone Growth Stimulator's
  • Neurostimulators
  • Breast Tissue Expanders and Implants
  • Insulin, Chemotherapy and Other Medication Pumps
  • Eye Prosthesis/Facial Prosthesis
  • Intracranial Brain Aneurysm Clips and AVM Clips
  • Magnetic Implants (including copper IUDs)
  • Metallic Ear Implants
  • Intravascular Coils, Filters and Stents
  • Ventriculoperitoneal Shunts
  • Penile Implants
  • Tattoos
  • Any Transdermal (skin) medication patches (nicotine, fentanyl, scopolamine, birth control, or other medication patch applied to the skin)

How do I prepare for an MRI?
Usually you will have no dietary restrictions. You should take all medications as prescribed. You should leave jewelry and other non-essential valuables at home.

We will ask you to complete a screening questionnaire so that we may accurately and thoroughly plan for your scan. Most questions will help determine the presence of metallic implants or foreign bodies. You should inform your physician if you have claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces) and discuss your options for this exam.

Depending on the type of MRI requested by your physician, you may be asked to remove certain clothing and wear a hospital gown or “scrub” pants. Clothing with zippers, snaps, hooks or other metallic parts including appliqués may distort MRI images and may need to be removed.

We will ask you to remove all cards with a magnetic strip (e.g., credit and ID cards). The magnet in the MRI scanner can demagnetize or erase magnetic strip cards.

We will ask you to empty your pockets and place your valuables in a locker provided to you. The following is a list of example items that you need to leave outside the scan room: coins, jewelry, watches, eye glasses, credit cards, keys, hair pins, other metal objects.

What happens during the MRI scan?
One of our staff MRI technologists, who are specially trained in MRI procedures, will explain the exam to you and perform the scan.

You will be asked to lie down on a special bed, or moving table, that is designed to fit into the MRI scanner. There may be a device called a coil, which is a special antenna and may be placed under, next to, or around the specific body part being imaged. The technologist will provide you with a pillow or a special cushion designed for the coil, as well as blankets, earplugs, or headphones for your comfort.

The table will slide into the magnet so that the part of your body being scanned is in the center of the scanner, its most sensitive point. The technologist will leave the room to operate the scanner computer. There is a window between the computer and the MRI scanner so that the technologist has an unobstructed view of you.

The technologist will speak with you over a microphone and speaker. The technologist will make sure you are ready to proceed and to let you know when to expect the scan to start. We also provide you with a “squeeze ball” that rings a bell at the technologist computer so you may contact the technologist at any time, should you feel discomfort or if you want to stop the scan. The time to complete various scans differs for each procedure. However, most scans take between 40 minutes and an hour to complete.

If you desire, the technologist can set up the system so that you can listen to music or watch a video while your scan is being conducted.

When and how will I get my results?
Your doctor who referred you for the scan will receive the results in two to three business days. You should follow up with your doctor to discuss this and any further diagnosis and treatment.

How can I get a copy of my scan?
Please call 617-855-3385 with information on the date of your scan. There is a nominal charge for personal copies
of scans on a CD.

What insurance carriers do we accept?:
Aetna, Allways, Medicare, Medicaid, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Harvard Pilgrim, Tufts and other commercial carriers. Medicare does not require a prior authorization but some secondary and primary commercial carriers may require one. If you have another insurance carrier, please contact us to discuss coverage at the following phone number: (617) 855-3385

How much does an MRI cost at McLean Imaging Center?
Please click on this link to find the rate sheet for exams. Navigate to the McLean link and scroll to the correct exam and look for both HC (Hospital Charges) and HCPR (Hospital Charge Professional fees).