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MRI scan patient information

mri scan staff patient together

This information tells you about having an MRI scan with us (following referral by your doctor) and aims to answer any questions you might have.

Please read this information carefully, and if you have any questions or concerns then contact us on 01923 886311 between the hours of 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

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Before your appointment

Please tell us if any of the following apply to you and you haven’t already told us when booking your appointment:

  • You have a pacemaker or a defibrillator
  • You have a programmable brain shunt You have aneurysm clips
  • You have an internal surgical device that can be adjusted (e.g. gastric band or breast expander) You have a heart valve replacement
  • You have ever had metallic fragments in your eyes You have a cochlear implant or stapedectomy
  • You have had, or are having, any surgery in the 6 weeks before your appointment
  • You have any cosmetic enhancements (e.g. surgery or minor things like hair extensions)
  • You’ve been asked to swallow a camera tablet to look at the inside of your body
  • You are or think you may be pregnant, or you’re breastfeeding
  • You have had previous scans that you have found hard to cope with or you are claustrophobic
  • You have any additional needs regarding disabilities or mobility
  • You weigh over 100kg or 15 stone 10 pounds
  • You have any other medical appointments booked on the same day as this scan other than the ones that we have arranged for you
  • You feel you need a chaperone

If you need hospital transport or an interpreter, please contact your referrer’s secretary.

What is an MRI scan?

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a scanning technique which uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create images of tissues, organs and other structures inside your body. It is painless.

The images may be useful in diagnosing illness or in helping your doctor plan appropriate treatment for you. The MRI scanner is a long open-ended tube surrounded by a large circular magnet, and the couch is about 1.8 metres or six feet long — see picture. You will need to be able to lie on your back on the scanning couch, which will move into the tube.

On the day

Please take your prescribed medicines as usual.

Your appointment letter tells you which of the following options apply to you:

Option 1: Eat and drink as normal.
Option 2: Avoid eating for two hours before your scan.

If the above instructions affect the way you take your medication, please ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice.

If you are diabetic, please ring us for advice if you are worried about any of these instructions.

Please bring a dressing gown or wear metal-free clothing, and bring your favourite music on MP3 player, iPod® or your mobile phone.

Avoid bringing valuables along to your appointment, as we only have limited secure space to store them for you. If you’re unable to attend, please phone us as soon as possible.

The centre opens at 7.30am. If you have any urgent questions before 9am, or if you’ve got a weekend appointment and need to speak to us on the day of your scan, please phone 01923 886310 and dial extension 375 for reception.

Your appointment time includes 15-30 mins preparation time. This is so there is time for you to get changed, complete your safety questionnaire and prepare you for your scan. We try to scan patients on time, although delays can happen.

MRI scans don’t use X-rays and there are no known risks or side effects associated with them.

However, due to the magnetic field created by the scanner, MRI scans are not suitable for everyone. Our team will complete and MRI safety checklist with you before you have your scan to ensure that you meet the necessary safety criteria.

In many cases this won’t be necessary. If you are having a scan of your abdomen or pelvis (stomach or hip area) we may give you an injection into the muscle of the leg. This helps to slow down the normal movement of the bowel during the scan and improves the image quality.

Some tests require a small injection of contrast medium (dye) into the arm or hand which contains gadolinium. This is given through a small tube called a cannula. It is not radioactive and is unlikely to cause you any after effects. It helps the doctors to tell the difference between blood vessels and other structures.

If you have an injection port (e.g. PowerPort® or Polysite®), we may be able to use this instead of a cannula. However the staff will need to see evidence of the ID card for the port to ensure that it is safe and appropriate for us to use.

The injections are given by either the radiographer or a doctor.

It is very rare to react to the contrast injection. The most common side effects, if they occur, are feeling or being sick, and this can occur soon after the injection. Please tell the radiographer if you experience any symptoms. If you experience any symptoms once you have left the hospital please contact either your GP or local Accident and Emergency department.

Once the scan is complete you are free to leave as soon as you feel ready. You may eat and drink as normal following your scan. You will be offered an after scan information form.

One of our radiologists will analyse your scan. We will then send your report back to the specialist who referred you for the scan. If you do not have another outpatient appointment arranged and you do not hear anything about the results within 3 weeks, we suggest that you contact your referrer’s secretary for advice.


Having your MRI scan

  • You will be asked to remove all metal objects from your person, including any piercings. A locker is available for personal items.
  • Depending on what you’re wearing you may be asked to change into a hospital gown. You can bring your own dressing gown instead.
  • Do not wear any sports clothing with antibacterial properties – it contains metal and could therefore cause injury during scans.
  • A member of staff will go through a safety checklist with you.
  • You will then be taken into the scanner room and asked to lie on the scanning couch. Depending on the body part we are scanning you may go in head or feet first. We will put a receiver called a “coil” on the body part of you that we are scanning. This detects the signals emitted from your body. Once you are comfortable, all you need to do is relax and remain very still.
  • The scanner room can be quite cold but you will be offered blankets to keep warm. You may warm up during your scan – this is a normal side-effect of having an MRI scan.
  • We will give you ear protection because the scanner makes loud rhythmic knocking and buzzing noises. The noises will change during the scan. Your music will be played through the headphones. We will give you a buzzer which you can use to contact the radiographer at any time.
  • The radiographer can see you during the scan. You can talk to each other through the two-way intercom.
  • During scanning we may ask you to hold your breath several times for short periods. This can improve scan quality.
  • MRI scans can take between 20 to 120 minutes. Our bookings team can tell you how long your scan is likely to take.
  • Unfortunately we’re unable to give sedatives or painkillers. If you do need something to calm your nerves or reduce pain, please speak to your doctor in advance and follow their advice closely.
  • If you’ve taken a sedative, you must bring someone with you to your appointment.
Paul Strickland scanner centre map

Getting to Paul Strickland Scanner Centre

CT, MRI and PET-CT imaging in Greater London, just inside the M25 and 30 min from Heathrow airport.

Content last updated 13 November 2023. Next clinical review due July 2024.


Visit the NHS website or ring us on 01923 886310 during office hours if anything is unclear.

Confidentiality of your health records

The confidentiality of your health records is very important to us. Find out more.

We aim to provide our patients with world-class scanning facilities, clinical excellence and opportunities to take part in innovative health research studies.

We welcome your feedback. Please complete one of our comments cards during your visit, or email This helps us improve our service.

Our address is Paul Strickland Scanner Centre, Mount Vernon Hospital, Rickmansworth Road, Northwood, HA6 2RN.

View detailed map of Mount Vernon Hospital.

You will be welcomed at our reception desk by one of our Radiographic Assistants (RAs). Your scan will be performed by one of our Radiographers, who may be assisted by an RA. Female RAS wear either a plain white tunic or a plain white tunic with light blue trim, while female radiographers wear a white tunic with black trim. Their male counterparts wear a plain white shirt. Both male and female uniformed staff wear black trousers.

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