MRI

MRI scan guide: definition & walk-in MRI scan centers

Whether you're searching for a walk-in MRI center, need a diagnostic MRI, or are looking for a preventive MRI exam, scan.com can help you find the best radiology centers and MRI scan providers in your area.

Through scan.com’s directory of reputable radiology centers and providers, you can find MRI scan centers, as well as many other types of medical imaging scans, from the comfort of your device (and no, you don't have to have health insurance to do it!). Learn more about MRI scans, their safety, and how to book an MRI scan below.

What is an MRI scan?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive technology used to produce detailed images of various parts of your body with the help of powerful magnets, radio waves, and contrast agents. MRI scanning machines are large, tube-shaped machines that radiologists use in both preventive and diagnostic treatments to detect different diseases, determine diagnoses, and monitor the success of certain treatments.

How does an MRI scan work?

MRI scans harness the power of physics to capture images of your body and diagnose diseases. MRIs use powerful magnets to create a magnetic field, forcing your body’s protons to align with it. Then, your radiologist pulsates a radiofrequency current through your body to disrupt the position of these protons.

Once the current stops, the protons in your body will reposition themselves in their original alignment with the MRI’s magnetic field. That releases differing amounts of energy, which is then recorded on the MRI image. Radiologists use the data provided by this image to inform their diagnoses and make decisions about treatment options.

What can an MRI scan detect?

MRI machines are best suited for taking images of the soft tissues in the body. These types of scans are able to gather clear images of the brain, spinal cord, nerves, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and more. MRI scans can detect aneurysms, tumors, joint injuries, spinal injuries, and many other types of irregularities in the organs and soft tissues of the body.

Some of the areas of the body that MRIs can detect irregularities in include (but are not limited to) the:

  • Brain
  • Neck
  • Orbits
  • Heart
  • Breasts
  • Adrenal glands
  • Cervical spine
  • Lumbar spine
  • Thoracic spine
  • Tailbone
  • Hips
  • Elbows
  • Wrists
  • Legs
  • Feet
  • Kidneys
  • Liver
  • Pancreas
  • Bowels

How much does an MRI cost?

The cost of an MRI depends on various factors, including the part of your body you’re scanning, your geographical location, whether or not you use insurance to pay for your MRI scan, your particular insurance plan benefits, and much more. The best way to determine the cost of an MRI is to reach out to an MRI scan provider directly.

MRI safety & risks

MRIs are generally safe and do not emit ionizing radiation like some other popular medical imaging scans, such as CT scans. However, all scans have some level of risk. The powerful magnets used by MRI scanning machines are strong enough to move metal objects across an entire room. Therefore, when getting an MRI, you should make sure to tell your radiologist whether you have any type of metal implant - especially if it’s made of iron. Medical devices such as pacemakers, medication pumps, and vagus nerve stimulators are not considered safe for use in MRI scanning machines.

Before your MRI, also make sure to tell your radiologist whether you have any health issues, such poor kidney function. In rare cases, the contrast dye used in MRI scans to illuminate blood vessels can make certain health conditions worse. Also, be sure to notify your radiology center if you are pregnant, thinking of getting pregnant, or breastfeeding.

How to find an MRI center near you

The search tool on scan.com makes it easy to locate MRI scan providers and radiologists in your area. Find an MRI center near you and book an appointment by clicking here.

Resources:

  1. https://www.nibib.nih.gov/science-education/science-topics/magnetic-resonance-imaging-mri
  2. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/mri-scan
  3. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/mri-scan/whathappens/#:~:text=A%20magnetic%20resonance%20imaging%20

FAQs

See a few of our most frequent asks.

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Yes, you can get and pay for an MRI without health insurance. This is sometimes referred to as “private pay”.

Yes, it is possible to book and receive a same-day MRI scan. However, MRI availability will depend on your medical imaging center’s schedule and capabilities. Many MRI centers will have same-day openings, while others could be booked out a few days or weeks.

An MRI scan may last anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes, depending on what body parts your radiologist wants to scan and whether contrast dye is being used.

Before getting an MRI, be sure to let your physician know whether you have any metal implants, like a pacemaker, cochlear implant, or vagus nerve stimulator. It is dangerous to undergo an MRI scan with many of these types of implants. Your technician will also ask you to remove any jewelry, watches, keys, or metal accessories from your body before your MRI. Make sure to talk to your physician about possible alternative scans if an MRI scan isn't best for your situation.