What is an MRI?
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive medical procedure that uses a strong magnetic field and low energy radio waves to produce detailed anatomical images of the human body. According to the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), an MRI scan is often used for disease detection, diagnosis, and treatment planning.
An MRI scan is particularly helpful in capturing detailed images of your brain, nerves, and soft tissues that generally don’t come up on x-ray examinations. With the brain, an MRI scan can diagnose aneurysms and tumours, differentiate between grey and white matter, and detect certain chronic diseases including multiple sclerosis (MS).
What to expect when getting an MRI scan
The MRI machine can be best described as a large cylinder with a strong circular magnet inside. There’s a tunnel in the centre of the machine in which patients are placed on a padded table that slides in and out.
Generally, an MRI scan doesn’t require any preparation unless you are getting an abdominal or bowel MRI in which case you may be required to fast before your appointment. Before your scan, you will be asked to remove items such as jewellery, phones, coins, keys, belts, and credit cards and leave them outside the examination room.
An MRI scan can last from 20 minutes up to 2 hours or more, depending on which part/s of the body is being scanned. Throughout the scan, you will be required to stay as still as possible. The procedure itself is painless however there may be a series of loud noises including thumping, tapping, and beeping sounds. Generally, you’ll be given special ear protection or headphones to listen to.
There’s a few things to keep in mind before having an MRI scan:
- Claustrophobia — In some cases, you might feel claustrophobic in the MRI machine. If you feel this may be the case, speak to your doctor beforehand and they’ll go through the options with you including administering a sedative.
- Noise — As previously mentioned, it can be quite noisy inside a MRI scanner. If you’re worried about the noise, you can request headphones to help block the sound or given special ear protection.
- Pregnancy — You can still receive an MRI scan while you’re pregnant, however they are generally avoided in the first trimester as a precaution.
- Implants or devices — Before having an MRI scan, you should tell your doctor if you have any implants or devices in your head or body (e.g. pacemakers, cochlear
implants, defibrillators, aneurysm clips, or infusion pumps). Generally, if you have an implant or device, particularly those containing iron, you should not enter an MRI machine.
Are there any risks involved?
As an MRI scan is a medical procedure, you might be (understandably) wondering whether it is safe and if there are any risks involved.
Unlike x-ray examinations or CT scans, an MRI scan doesn’t use ionising radiation and is considered to be very safe as long as safety guidelines are followed. According to Mayfield Clinic, an MRI uses a strong magnetic field and there are no known health risks associated with the magnetic field or radio waves used by the machine. However, any metal implant or device poses a safety risk as it can move or heat up in the magnetic field.
How much does an MRI cost in Australia?
Generally, the cost of an MRI scan will depend on a few factors including the type of scan, how many parts of your body require imaging, how long the scan takes, and your health cover. In Australia, the cost of an MRI scan can range from $100 up to $500.
However, Medicare will cover 100% of the cost if you are a public patient in a public hospital. On the other hand, if you’re a private patient in a public or private hospital, Medicare will cover 75% with the remaining gap to be paid out-of-pocket or through a private health fund. Lastly, if you are receiving an MRI scan outside of the hospital and have a specialist referral, Medicare covers 85% of the cost.
Oiyo is a consolidated online resource, we are not financial advisors. We work with a range of industry professionals and compliance check our articles to ensure factual accuracy. However, we do not provide professional financial advice. Consider seeking independent legal, financial, taxation or other advice to check how the information and ideas presented in this article relate to your unique circumstances.
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