Magnetic Resonance Imaging

What is an MRI?

An MRI is a test that uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to take detailed images of organs and tissues. The atoms in your body respond to this energy. An MRI detects this response.

When you get an MRI, you can't have any metal objects like jewelry or zippers because of the strong magnet.

Unlike X-rays or CT exams, an MRI does not use radiation. Some MRI exams use contrast. Contrast helps improve the clarity of images to make a diagnosis more accurate.

We perform many types of MRI exams, including breast MRI, cardiac MRI and prostate MRI. We also have an open MRI scanner at our Mass General Imaging - Chelsea location. 

Breast MRI
A breast MRI creates highly detailed images of breast tissue. It is used with other imaging such as mammography and ultrasound to provide an overview of breast health.

Learn more
Cardiac MRI
A cardiac MRI is a special type of MRI exam designed to look at the structure and function of the heart. 

Learn more
Open MRI
Open MRI has magnets above and below the patient, with plenty of open space on either side. The open design of the scanner means patients are more comfortable when positioned for their MRI scans.

Learn more
Prostate MRI
A prostate MRI is a dynamic contrast enhanced type of MRI. It uses contrast that is injected though an IV and measures how your body absorbs it. 

Learn more
Metabolic Liver MRI
This exam measures fat, iron levels and damage in the liver with greater detail than liver elastography using ultrasound and other diagnostic tests.

How to Prepare for a MRI

You can use this information to prepare for most MRIs. You need to follow special instructions to prepare for a cardiac MRI and a prostate MRI.

Log into Patient Gateway for more details on your specific appointment.

    • Screening Call - Expect to get a phone call from our MRI staff about three days before your appointment. We will ask you questions about allergies and implants. The call helps make sure we have everything ready for you when you arrive. During this call, please let us know if you'd like interpreter services during your appointment so we have enough time to coordinate support.
    • Implants - Please let our MRI staff know if you have anything metal or electronically implanted in your body. Bring information about any metal or electronic implants in your body to your appointment. We will need to make sure it is safe for you to have an MRI with it in place.
    • Eating and Drinking - Some MRI exams restrict what you can eat and drink before your appointment. Your doctor's office can give you the details for your specific exam.
    • Contrast - There are two kinds – the kind you drink in the waiting room and the kind that you get through an IV. You may need contrast for your MRI. 
    • Claustrophobia - Ask your doctor about medicine to help you relax during your exam if you have a fear of small spaces. We don't have any in our department that we can give you.
    • Clothing - Please wear clothes that are easy to change out of. All MRI patients at Mass General change into hospital attire for safety.
    • Valuables - Valuables are not allowed in the exam room. Lockers are available, but we suggest you leave your valuables at home.
    • Children - If you need to bring kids to your appointment, please bring someone to watch them in the waiting room. MRI staff cannot be responsible for supervising minor children during an MRI appointment.

What to Expect at an MRI Exam

Find out what happens when you come to Mass General Imaging for your MRI exam.

Patient Resources

Use these patient resources to answer other questions about your appointment. You can also contact us if you need any help.

listen to an mri sound
Listen to an MRI

Listen to an MRI

Hear the variations in sound as electricity passes through the scanner.

checking in
Checking In

Checking In

Find out what happens when you check and why we keep asking for your date of birth!

exam with anesthesia
MRI and Anesthesia

MRI and Anesthesia

Learn what to expect when you get an MRI with anesthesia.

exam with contrast
MRI and IV Contrast

MRI and IV Contrast

Learn why we use IV contrast for some MRI exams.

mri and pregnancy
MRI and Pregnancy

MRI and Pregnancy

Learn about having an MRI when you're pregnant.

patient gateway
Patient Gateway

Patient Gateway

Check Patient Gateway to manage your health and get in touch with your doctor's office.