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MRI scans

Get fast access to MRI scans in Manchester

close up of radiologist looking at patient as entering a MRI scannerMagnetic resonance imaging, or MRI for short, is a safe, non-invasive imaging test that produces detailed images of the body's internal structures.

It uses powerful magnetic fields and radio frequency waves to create detailed anatomical images of your body’s organs, bones, joints, blood vessels and muscles.

If your doctor has recommended that you have an MRI scan, you might be wondering what to expect.

This article will examine how MRI scans work, why they are used and what you need to know about having an MRI scan.

It will also look at the benefits of having a private MRI scan at The Alexandra Hospital in Manchester.

An MRI machine uses powerful magnets, radio waves and a computer to capture detailed 3D images of the inside of the body. The scan is performed by a radiographer — a doctor who has specialised training in performing imaging investigations such as MRIs, CT scans, X-rays and ultrasounds.

The magnets in the MRI machine create powerful magnetic fields around the patient’s body. These magnetic fields cause the atoms in your body to act like tiny magnets and align in the same direction.

The machine then sends radio waves from the scanner to move these atoms out of position. When the radio waves are turned off, the atoms return to their original position, sending back signals that are captured by the computer and used to create an image of the body.

MRI scanners

The MRI scanner is a large, cylindrical machine. The tube shape is for creating a powerful magnetic field by the machine’s magnets.

During the scan, the patient lies on their back on a table that slides into the machine.

The radiographer controls the machine using a computer in another room. They can see the images on the computer in real-time on the computer monitor.

An MRI scan is a non-invasive test that captures images of the soft tissues and organs without exposing the body to radiation. MRI scans can be used to diagnose and assess a wide range of injuries and conditions.

What is an MRI scan used to diagnose?

There is a wide range of applications for MRI use. An MRI scan might be used to check for:

  • Joint or soft tissue injuries
  • Tumours, cysts or other anomalies in the body
  • Brain injuries such as stroke, aneurysm, tumours or haemorrhages
  • Spine problems such as nerve damage and slipped discs
  • Disease or problems with organs in the chest and abdomen, including the heart, liver, kidneys, spleen, pancreas and adrenal glands
  • Pelvic scans, including the bladder, womb, ovaries and prostate
  • Some types of heart problems
  • Breast cancer screening for women at high risk

In addition, your doctor might use an MRI to measure blood flow, monitor current treatment or check tumour growth.

Types of MRI scanners

Traditional MRI scanners are large, enclosed and tube-like. The patient lies on their back and slides into the scanner via their head or feet.

There are newer ‘open MRIs’ that are open on the sides. These might be more suitable for patients with claustrophobia, but the magnetic fields that the machine can generate are not as powerful as a traditional MRI scanner. For this reason, open MRI scanners are not always suitable.

A standard MRI machine has a strength of 1.5T, with ‘T’ standing for Tesla, a unit of measurement for magnetic strength.

3T MRI machines, sometimes called 3 Tesla MRIs, have twice as powerful magnetic fields as a traditional MRI scanner. The stronger magnetic field means that the machine can capture more detailed images in less time. For this reason, it is advantageous in diagnosing conditions of the brain and spine and orthopaedic injuries to soft tissues.

MRI scans are very safe. Unlike X-rays and CT scans, there is no exposure to ionising radiation. There are no known side effects or negative impacts of exposure to the magnetic fields or radiofrequency waves.

Sometimes a contrast dye is injected to help the radiographer better see some types of tissues or structures. There is a small risk of sensitivity or allergic reaction to the dye. If you are sensitive to contrast dye or iodine, you should tell the medical staff.

If you have a history of kidney problems, you should also alert medical staff as there is a risk of contrast dye causing a rare but severe complication called nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF).

Can you have an MRI scan when pregnant?

If you are pregnant or may be pregnant, you should let the doctor know before the scan.

Although MRIs are believed to be safe for pregnant women and the foetus, other investigations such as ultrasounds are usually recommended instead.

As a precaution, MRI scans are not recommended in the first trimester. Contrast dye is also avoided during pregnancy as it could enter the foetus’ bloodstream.

Who can have an MRI scan?

The powerful magnetic fields created by the MRI scan mean that additional precautions must be taken for patients with metal implants or fragments in their bodies. Strong magnets can affect these, so you must notify medical staff if you have any implanted medical devices or metal fragments to ensure your safety and suitability for an MRI.

Examples of metal fragments or implants that you should disclose:

  • Pacemakers
  • Implants for pain, drugs or nerve stimulation
  • Cochlear implants
  • Surgical clips, plates, wires, rods or screws
  • Artificial joints used in knee or hip replacements
  • Dental fillings or bridges
  • Metallic fragments in or near the eyes (common in welders or metalworkers).

Many newer implantable medical devices are MRI-safe, but your medical team will decide on a case-by-case basis if it is safe for you to continue with the MRI. If you are not eligible for an MRI scan, your doctor might recommend a CT scan instead.

CT scan stands for computerised tomography. Like an MRI, it gives a detailed look inside the structures of the body, including organs, bones and soft tissue.

Their use is similar, but CT scans use X-rays sent throughout the body. Unlike regular X-rays, CT scans provide a much higher level of detail but not the same level of detail as an MRI.

CT scans are fast and detailed, making them ideal for use in emergency medicine. They are also more common and less expensive than MRIs. If you can’t have an MRI, a CT scan can be an alternative. However, they aren’t as effective as MRIs in detecting subtle differences in soft tissues, and they do involve exposing the body to small amounts of radiation.

During a CT scan, you lie on your back and a large doughnut-shaped ring rotates around the section of your body that is being scanned. Unlike an MRI machine which is fully enclosed, a CT scanner is open and the ring passes around the patient’s body, making it a better choice for patients with claustrophobia. 

Both CT scans and MRI scans are safe, but you should discuss the risks and benefits of each test with your doctor to decide which is the right choice for you.

If you need to have an MRI scan, you might be nervous about the experience.

Before your scan, your doctor should explain why they are recommending an MRI and let you know any special instructions before your scan.

Unless your consultant specifically tells you otherwise, you should be able to eat, drink and continue taking all medications before your scan.

When you arrive for your MRI scan at the Alexandra Hospital, you can park in one of the hospital’s free parking spaces.

Before the scan, you will be asked to fill out a short questionnaire about your health and medical history, and the radiographer will explain what will happen during the test.

Preparing for your MRI scan

In some cases, depending on why you are having an MRI scan, you might be advised to avoid food or drink for up to four hours before your MRI.

You will be asked to wear a gown and leave your clothing and belongings in a locker, so leave any valuables at home.

In preparation for the scan, you must remove any metal objects from your body.

During your MRI scan

During the scan, you will not feel anything, but you will need to lie very still to ensure the radiographer is able to get the clearest possible images. MRI scans are noisy, but that is entirely normal and nothing to be alarmed about. We will provide you with earplugs to block out the noise.

How long does an MRI scan take?

The scan should take anywhere from 15–90 minutes, depending on the area being scanned and the number of images required.

Your consultant might recommend the use of a contrast dye to enhance the clarity of the images of certain tissues, blood vessels or other parts of the body. This dye is injected into one of your veins using a thin tube called a cannula. The contrast dye is safe but we do not give it to pregnant women or patients with kidney problems.

Depending on the reason for your scan, your radiographer might be able to interpret your results on the same day. Otherwise, you will receive your results within a week.

What if I suffer from claustrophobia?

We understand that the idea of being in an enclosed space might be difficult for you.

If you have claustrophobia, we encourage you to come to The Alexandra Hospital to speak with your medical team. They will be happy to discuss any questions or fears you have and to discuss your options.

During the scan, you will be able to speak to the radiographer throughout the test through an intercom. You might also be able to have a friend or family member with you for support.

In extreme cases, you might be offered a mild sedative, but you will need to ensure that you do not drive yourself home after the scan.

MRI waiting lists on the NHS can be long. When you choose private healthcare, you’ll have the freedom to choose your hospital and get your scan done at a time convenient to you.

The private diagnostic imaging department at The Alexandra Hospital has one Siemens 1.5 Tesla scanner and a mobile Philips 3 Tesla scanner. We also offer:

  • Cardiac MRI service
  • CT scans
  • X-rays
  • Nuclear medicine
  • Breast imaging
  • Ultrasound scanning

Our MRI unit is available every day of the week. Appointments are given quickly — usually within 24 hours. Our opening hours are:

  • Monday to Friday from 8am to 9pm
  • Saturday from 8am to 6pm
  • Sunday from 8am to 4 pm

The price of your MRI scan will depend on the type of scan you have. You will be given a fixed price in writing before your scan. We accept private medical insurance and offer flexible payment packages for self-pay patients.

  • MRI scan: one part starting from £247
  • MRI scan: two parts starting from £394
  • MRI scan: three parts starting from £525
  • MRI scan: four parts starting from £630
  • MRI scan: five parts starting from £840
  • MRI scan: six parts starting from £945
  • MRI arthrogram starting from £483
  • MRI enterography starting from £578
  • BUPA multiparametric MRI of prostate starting from £614
  • MRI basic cardiac sign starting from £800
  • MRI perfusion cardiac scan starting from £1,040

Please note that the prices below indicate the self-pay guide price and do not include consultations or aftercare.

Our team of experienced radiographers will ensure that you have the best possible MRI experience at The Alexandra Hospital. The right imaging is critical for ensuring the right diagnosis.

At the Alexandra Hospital, our multidisciplinary team of radiologists, radiographers, consultants and technicians will ensure that you receive the best possible care and treatment. 

At the Alexandra Hospital in Manchester, we guarantee:

  • Personalised consultant-led diagnosis and treatment
  • State-of-the-art facilities tailored to your comfort
  • Flexible and speedy bookings — usually within 24 hours
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with the option to spread the cost of your care.

How to find us

The Alexandra Hospital is located at Mill Lane, Cheadle, Cheshire, SK8 2PX. It is accessible by bus or car (free parking available on-site).

To book a private MRI at the Alexandra Hospital, call 0161 495 6891 or 0161 495 6892 to make an appointment at a date and time that is convenient for you.

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