What is an MRI?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, is a safe and effective medical imaging technique that produces clear pictures (or images) of the human body. It provides an excellent way to diagnose diseases of the brain, spine, chest, abdomen, pelvis and blood vessels.

The Mayfield Imaging Center uses a new short-bore MRI, which, like other state-of-the-art MRIs, produces extremely high-quality images, but which also provides optimal patient comfort.

How does MRI work?

The human body is made up of millions of atoms, which are magnetic. When placed in a magnetic field, these atoms line up with the field, in much the same way as a compass points to the North Pole. A powerful antenna picks up this movement and sends the signal to a computer, which performs millions of calculations to produce a black and white image for diagnosis.

About the exam

Your MRI testing will take place in a state-of-the-art MRI system called the GE Signa Excite HD system. Our MRI offers maximum patient comfort and shorter exam times than most MRI testing facilities. The system has a spacious, flared opening on both ends, short exam space, attractive and ultra-modern design, and soft colors - all of which produce a friendly environment that reduces anxieties and helps patients relax. The exam usually takes 20 to 50 minutes. The images this exam produces will assist us in making the best diagnosis possible.

Help us get a good picture of you

Metallic objects can cause a bright or blank spot to appear in the picture. To help your doctor make the best diagnosis, you will be asked to remove eyeglasses, jewelry, credit cards, dentures, hearing aids, and any other metallic objects you are wearing or carrying. We will provide you with a secure personal locker.

You may also want to avoid drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages prior to scanning so that you are able to lie quietly for several minutes at a time.

What can you expect from your MRI exam?

Although MRI is an advanced medical technique, your examination with us probably will be one of the easiest and most comfortable you ever experience.

The technologist will ask you to lie down on a cushioned table, and a device called a coil will be placed over or under you. The coil is designed to help produce the clearest picture of the area being examined. When you are comfortably positioned, the table will move into the magnetic field.

If you wish, you may have a family member stay with you in the testing area during your examination. The magnet is extremely loud, you may be asked to wear ear protection. We do have music available. You may listen to music on our stereo system during the exam, or you can bring one of your own CDs.

When the magnet is taking images, it will produce a muffled thumping sound that you will hear for several minutes at a time. You will be asked to relax and lie as still as possible. Any movement during this time will blur the picture.

Head and Neck


MRI gives detailed pictures of the brain and spine. The image at right clearly shows structures in the head and neck. Air and hard bone, which do not give an MRI signal, appear black. Bone marrow, spinal fluid, blood and soft tissues like the brain vary in intensity from black to white, depending on the amount of fat and water present in each tissue and the machine settings used for the scan. The radiologist will compare the size and distribution of these bright and dark areas to determine whether a tissue is healthy.



Nearly every part of the body can be studied with MRI. Organs within the chest and abdomen, such as the heart, liver, bladder and kidneys, can easily be seen. The image at right gives a detailed view of the abdominal vessels.

Bones and Joints

MRI is sensitive to changes in cartilage and bone structure resulting from injury, disease or aging. The image at right is of a knee viewed from the side. Clear pictures like these often provide information not available from other medical tests and may eliminate the need for exploratory surgery.

Is there any risk?

MRI is very safe. There are no health risks associated with the magnetic field or the radio waves used by the machine. However, some special circumstances limit the use of a magnetic field, so it is important for you to tell us if any of the following apply to you or someone accompanying you into the exam room:

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  • cardiac pacemaker or an artificial heart valve
  • metal plate, pin or other metallic implant
  • piercings (particularly body piercing)
  • intrauterine device, such as Copper-7 IUD
  • insulin pump or other infusion pump
  • aneurysm clips
  • previous gunshot wound
  • employment history as metalworker
  • permanent (tattoo) eye-liner

A metallic substance can affect the quality of the diagnostic images and can cause discomfort or injury to a person placed in the magnetic field. The presence of a metallic substance may exclude a person from the exam. 

Also, please tell us if you are pregnant. The American College of Radiology recommends that women in the first trimester of pregnancy not undergo MRI scanning. After the first trimester, there is no definitive research indicating that MRI is contraindicated in pregnancy. However, you will need to obtain a written order from your obstetrician for the test to be performed.

Will I need an injection?

In most cases, an MRI exam does not require any injections. In some special situations however, a substance known as a contrast agent may be needed to enhance the ability of the MRI to see into your body. Patients who have had prior surgery on or around the area being scanned, will receive an injection of Gadolinium or contrast dye. The dye allows the reading radiologist to differentiate between scar tissue and other tissue. All contrast agents are FDA-approved and safe.

What if I am uncomfortable in small places?

Patients who are unusually anxious may want to ask their primary care physician for a mild sedative to help them relax and lie still during the exam. If you plan to take a sedative, someone must accompany you and drive you home.

How will I get my results?

Once the examination is complete, you are free to leave. Our Division of Radiology includes nationally recognized neuroradiologists and other specialized radiologists who are experts in reading images of every location in the body. These specialists will review your results promptly and communicate directly with your referring physician.

Priority neurological examinations?

If you are being tested for a spinal or cranial disorder, your physician may receive a priority consultation from one of the neurosurgeons at Mayfield Brain & Spine. This complimentary consultation may help determine more quickly whether surgery is a treatment option.

How will I get billed?

If you have insurance coverage, we will submit a bill directly to your carrier. Any co-payments or deductibles will be requested at the time of your visit. If you do not have health insurance, or are involved in a litigation claim, you will need to speak to our financial counselors (513-569-5300) prior to your appointment.



GE Signa Excite HD system

GE Signa Excite HD system