MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

A Detailed Scan with No Radiation

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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology uses a powerful magnet, radio waves, and an advanced computer system to produce detailed pictures of the organs, bones, and tissues inside your body. Your doctor might refer you for an MRI if an X-ray or CT scan didn't provide enough information about your health condition. The non-invasive test can help your doctor diagnose a disease, learn more about an injury, or monitor how well you're doing with a treatment. 

Our MRI Locations

What Does an MRI Show?

MRIs are performed to diagnose disease or evaluate an injury in a specific area of the body. They can also show if treatment has improved your condition. Your doctor may refer you for an MRI to look more closely for:

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Specialty MRIs

In addition to traditional MRIs, we offer specialized MRI tests that provide detailed information about a specific part of the body. Some of the more common ones include:

Liver MRI

Liver MRI is a powerful tool for evaluating a variety of liver diseases and conditions, including cancers, non-cancerous masses, cirrhosis, and problems with the blood vessels and bile ducts of the liver. We perform tailored MRIs and and select the specific image type to provide the information needed to guide your care.

Breast MRI

Patients with a high risk for breast cancer may be candidates for a breast MRI. This detailed scan may identify breast cancers at an earlier stage than mammograms, and it can rule out abnormalities shown on other tests.

Prostate MRI

A prostate MRI can detect prostate cancers and other prostate conditions such as infections. It can also help your doctor see how advanced a cancer is and if it has spread to other parts of the body.  

Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA)

MRAs can detect narrow or blocked blood vessels, an aneurysm, bleeding in the wall of the aorta, and other problems. During an MRA, you may or may not receive contrast. The contrast makes blood vessels appear transparent so blood flow can be assessed.

Magnetic Resonance Venography (MRV)

An MRV uses contrast to assess blood flow. This type of MRI focuses on the veins and can detect problems with vein structure, blood flow, thrombosis (clotting) in a vein, and more.

Cardiac MRI

This specialized MRI produces detailed images of the heart and surrounding blood vessels. It can uncover issues such as coronary artery diseases, pericardial diseases (which affect the outside lining of the heart), heart tumors, congenital heart disease, cardiomyopathy, heart valve disease, and others.

National MRI Accreditation

Our facilities are ACR-accredited for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, which represents the highest level of image quality and patient safety.

MRI Safety and Comfort

MRIs are painless tests that do not use radiation. Although MRIs are safe, we understand that they can cause anxiety for some people. Your safety and comfort are our top priorities, and our highly trained staff will be with you every step of the way. 

Metal and MRIs

Because MRIs use a strong magnet, most metals are not allowed in the MRI room. This includes many medical devices -- for example, pacemakers, defibrillator, and some implants (stimulators, cochlear implants, and insulin pumps) and objects containing metal such as hairpins, eyeglasses, jewelry, and cell phones. Metal can interfere with the MRI, and some devices could be damaged. Before your MRI, we will talk to you about any metal in your body and decide if a different test -- such as a CT scan -- is a better choice for you. Some pacemakers, defibrillators, and implants are MRI-conditional (meaning that they can safely withstand MRIs under specific conditions), and we offer MRIs that accommodate these devices at some locations. 

If You Are Concerned About Tight Spaces

MRIs require you to lie still in a tight space for 30 minutes or longer. While this is completely safe, people with claustrophobia and larger patients may not feel comfortable. To help you prepare, our technologists walk you through the entire procedure in advance, answer your questions, and communicate with you throughout the MRI. If you require sedation, you can discuss this option with your doctor before your MRI.

We offer larger (wide bore) MRIs at several locations.

What to Expect During Your MRI

Duke has MRI facilities throughout the Triangle. Appointments are scheduled to be convenient for you. If you need a specialized MRI, your appointment may be at a location with specific equipment and technology to meet your needs.

Preparing for the MRI

In most cases, no preparation is required for an MRI. Before your exam, you will be asked to remove all metal items including jewelry, glasses, hairpins, dentures, and hearing aids. Be ready to talk to your technologist about any metal implants, devices, or jewelry that cannot be removed. You may need to change into a gown or other suitable clothing. 

In the MRI room, you will lie on a moveable table. You will be given a call bell in case you want to signal the MRI technologist during the scan. The MRI scanner will remain on at all times.

MRI Imaging

When the MRI begins, the table will slowly move into the tube portion of the scanner. Depending on the parts of your body being examined, you will be fully inside the tube, or just a portion of your body will be inside. If your MRI requires contrast, you will get an IV line in your hand or arm. The contrast will be injected through the IV. If you are getting contrast by mouth, you will be asked to drink a liquid containing contrast.

The technologist will communicate with you throughout the MRI and will be able to see you at all times. During the MRI, you will lie still. You may be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds at a time. You will hear clicking and knocking noises during the test. This is normal, but you will be given earplugs to block the noise. 

MRIs can vary in length, depending on the information your doctor needs. Most last from 30 to 90 minutes. If you require sedation for your MRI, you can talk to your doctor in advance about your options. 

Getting Your Results

Once your MRI is complete, your images are interpreted by a radiologist. Your report and MRI images are typically sent to you through My Duke Health (previously Duke MyChart) and your doctor within 24 hours of your appointment, and your doctor may contact you to discuss the results. A quick turnaround time allows any necessary treatment to begin quickly.  

Since you can access your results as soon as they are available, you may often see them in My Duke Health before your doctor has had a chance to look at them and explain them to you. If you prefer not to see your results before your doctor, let them know. That way, they can request a delay in sending your information to your chart until you talk with them.

This page was medically reviewed on 04/21/2023 by