The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide
Diagnostic Tests - MRI of the Spine
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What happens when the test is performed?

  • The MRI is a large machine with a circular tunnel built through it, like the hole of a donut. You lie on your back on a narrow table that can be moved back and forth into the tunnel.When MRI scans are taken, expect to hear some loud noises from the machine. Some MRI departments offer earplugs or a stereo headset to block this noise. A technician moves your table using an automatic control.When each picture is taken, he or she asks you to hold your breath for a few seconds. If you need to have dye injected through the IV, this is usually done halfway through the scanning. An MRI typically takes 30-90 minutes. It can be difficult if you are uneasy in tight spaces or have trouble lying flat for that amount of time. If you think you might have trouble getting through the procedure, talk to your doctor beforehand and discuss whether an anti-anxiety medicine might help. After the test is done, you can go about your normal activities.

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