Prostate MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)

Massachusetts General Hospital Imaging provides prostate MRI services in a comfortable, caring environment using the latest technology, and every scan is read by a radiologist with specialty training.

Prostate MRI images

Prostate MRI provides additional information that
helps doctors locate and understand prostate-
tumor activity.

Massachusetts General Hospital Imaging provides prostate MRI services at Mass General Imaging - Chelsea. Our staff places priority on making your journey through the imaging process comfortable, safe, and successful. All images are read by a radiologist with specialty expertise in the area of the body being studied.

Prostate MRI overview

  • An MRI machine produces a strong magnetic field and radio waves. The atoms in your body respond to this energy in a certain way. The MRI detects this response and uses it to construct detailed images.
  • MRI does not use X-ray radiation.
  • MRI excels at imaging soft tissue; it is used to look at various internal organs, including the prostate.
  • Exams typically take 45 minutes.
  • A prostate MRI requires the placement of an endorectal coil, a wire covered in a rubbery balloon, into your lower colon through the rectum. This will be done by a physician radiologist.
  • A prostate MRI involves contrast—an injection that makes the images more vivid and informative.
  • If you are over 60 or have kidney disease, diabetes, lupus, or multiple myeloma, a blood test before your exam is necessary to make sure the contrast is safe for you.
  • Because of the strong magnet, we need to make absolutely sure you don’t have any metal objects with you. We also need to know details about any implants in your body.
  • The technologist performing your exam will be nearby and able to talk to you throughout the scan.
  • MRI exams require that you lie still in a confined space. Most people have no problem, but talk to your doctor if you are concerned. Your doctor may prescribe a sedative (we cannot provide such medication).
  • Every exam is interpreted by a radiologist with specialty expertise in the specific area of the body under study. A specialist is capable of seeing and understanding subtle things due to advanced training and singular focus.
  • We use the latest technology, including high-resolution 3T scanners. On-staff physicists and engineers ensure that our machines remain in top condition.

Prostate MRI in depth

Prostate MRI images

Multiparametric MRI of the prostate showing
bilateral tumor in the peripheral zone.

What is a prostate MRI exam?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, is a valuable, painless, diagnostic test that allows radiologists to see inside some areas of the body that cannot be seen using conventional X-rays. MRI produces a series of cross-sectional pictures. MRI technology has advanced so much in recent years that it has greatly altered treatment courses. Physicians can detect many conditions in earlier stages, greatly optimizing patient outcomes.
Prostate MRI uses a special form of MRI called DCE (dynamic contrast enhanced) MRI, which looks at how your body's tissues absorb a contrast material over time. Because tumors act differently than normal tissue, this can help to pinpoint and characterize tumor activity. Sophisticated image-analysis software helps radiologists to interpret the MRI results. A prostate MRI exam also involves the use of an endorectal coil (a wire covered in a rubbery balloon), which helps to increase resolution in the area of the prostate gland.

Mass General Imaging uses state-of-the-art MRI scanners to take pictures with very high resolution. These images give your physician important information in diagnosing your medical condition and planning a course of treatment.


All of our equipment is maintained in top condition, meeting not only the standards set by the federal government, but also by those set by Mass General Hospital's health physicists.

MRI scanners do not use X-rays. Instead, they use a very strong magnet and radio frequency.

Patients with any kind of metallic implant anywhere in their body should not have a prostate MRI unless their physician is fully aware of the device and has approved the MRI procedure. Under no circumstances should a patient who has a pacemaker have an MRI.

What should I expect BEFORE my prostate MRI exam?

  • Medications: It is important for you to keep to your regular medication schedule. Just let our staff  know what medications you have taken prior to your Prostate MRI exam.
  • Food and drink: Because the exam requires the use of an endorectal coil, which is inserted into your colon through the rectum, you should eat light meals the day before and the day of your exam. You may also be asked to use an enema prior to the proceure to clean out the lower colon. An MRI staff member will call you the day before your test and give you any instructions you need. At that time, we can also tell you approximately how long we anticipate your test will take.
  • When to arrive: You should arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment. This allows time for you to complete any necessary paperwork, change your clothes for your exam and answer questions from our technologist about your medical history before we start your scan.
  • What to wear: You will be asked to change into a hospital gown. Our changing areas are private and there is a secure locker for your clothes. It is best, however, if you leave valuable items at home. If you are wearing anything metallic, such as jewelry, dentures, eyeglasses, or hearing aids that might interfere with the MRI scan, we will ask you to remove them. You should not have your credit cards in your pockets during the scan because the MRI magnet can affect the magnetic strip on the card. Patients who are having a brain / head scan should not wear make-up as some brands contain metal.
  • Intravenous preparation: Because a prostate MRI exam requires the use of contrast , the technologist will place an IV in your arm prior to your going into the scan. (Please see the "Contrast medium" section below.)

What will I experience DURING my MRI exam?

  • Scanning: Your technologist will bring you into the MRI scan room where you will lie face down on the patient table. A physician radiologist will insert the endorectal coil and the technologist will position the table so that your pelvis is in the middle of the large cylindrical magnet. The scanner does not touch you, nor do you feel anything. Because the scanner does make a loud knocking noise when it takes the pictures, the technologist will offer you headphones to listen to music or earplugs to lessen the sound. The technologist leaves the room, but is in full view and communication with you through the observation window in the adjoining room. There is also voice communication at all times through an intercom. It is important for you to lie very still, and at some points you may be asked to briefly hold your breath as the picture is taken.
  • Length of MRI exam: A prostate MRI typically takes 45 minutes. Often the exam will involve a preliminary scan, then an injection of contrast through the IV in your arm, followed by more scanning. After all of the images are taken, we may ask you to wait a few moments while the radiologist reviews all the images so we can be sure we have exactly what your doctor wants. You may then get dressed and leave.
  • Contrast medium: A contrast medium, or contrast agent, highlights your organs and blood vessels and helps the radiologist see them better. The contrast agents in use today carry a low risk of allergic reaction and cause little discomfort for most people. If you are over 60 or have kidney disease, diabetes, lupus, or multiple myeloma, you’ll need a blood test beforehand to make sure the contrast will be safe for you.

What should I expect AFTER my MRI exam?

  • Instructions: You have no restrictions after having a MRI exam and can go about your normal activities. To help eliminate the contrast medium from your body, remember to drink plenty of fluids.
  • Exam results: All MRI exams are read by a Mass General radiologist specialty trained in MR imaging and dedicated to the specific area of interest for your study

    Rapid results are essential not only for your peace of mind, but also for your physician to begin planning your treatment immediately, if necessary. After the scan has been read, the results are sent to your physician, who will discuss them with you.

Advanced MRI pinpoints prostate tumors

To provide doctors with the most accurate information, Massachusetts General Hospital Imaging is now providing advanced prostate MRI exams.

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