Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic procedure that utilizes powerful magnets and pulsed radiofrequency waves to create detailed images for screening and diagnosis. In addition to standard MRI, Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) is also available to detect issues related to blood vessels and blood flow.

Our advanced equipment provides clearer images, which means quicker, more precise diagnoses, even for challenging diseases and conditions such as:

What to Expect:

During your MRI examination, you will:

  • Remove jewelry, clothing, eyeglasses, removable dental work, hearing aids, etc.
  • Receive a hospital gown and a private space to change.
  • Have a secure location provided to store your personal belongings.
  • Have an intravenous (IV) line inserted into your hand or arm if you are having an MRI with contrast dye.
  • Wait in a designated area until your exam is ready to begin.
  • Lie on a table that will slide into the MRI machine, typically shaped like a long tube.
  • Be able to see your MRI technologist through a window.
  • Communicate with your MRI technologist through a built-in microphone in the MRI machine.
  • Wear a headset or earplugs to reduce the noise levels generated by the MRI machine.
  • Be instructed to remain very still to ensure accurate image creation.

An MRI scan is generally painless, although lying still for an extended period may cause some discomfort. If you experience pain when lying on your back or in a particular position for an extended time, it is advisable to consult your physician about taking pain medication before the MRI. Your MRI technologist will prioritize your comfort throughout the procedure.


Due to the strong magnets used in MRI machines, certain metals in or on your body can present safety concerns. While some metals are attracted to magnets, others may affect image quality and potentially delay your clinical care. Prior to your MRI, you will likely need to complete a questionnaire regarding any metal or electronic devices in or on your body. It is crucial to provide comprehensive information about such items. Our skilled staff will review your responses and conduct the necessary research to ensure your safety.

Inform your doctor if you have claustrophobia or a fear of enclosed spaces before scheduling your MRI. Your doctor can recommend alternative examinations, medications, or other techniques to make you more comfortable during the MRI.

Companions and Service Animals:

We allow service animals to complete trained tasks before and after imaging exams. However, emotional support animals, companion animals, and pets are not permitted. Only service animals are allowed to accompany patients. Service animals must wait in a designated area during MRI examinations. For the safety of our staff and other patients, only the patient and the imaging staff directly involved in the exam are allowed in our MRI areas. We kindly request that you arrange for someone to care for your service animal during the MRI exam.

Mobility Aids:

Most mobility aids, such as canes, walkers, and wheelchairs, contain metal that is easily attracted to magnets. As MRI utilizes a powerful magnet, special precautions are necessary to secure MRI-unsafe mobility aids. If you use a mobility aid, we will provide a special MRI-compatible wheelchair or a similar aid while you are in the MRI department. For the safety of patients and staff, MRI-unsafe mobility aids will be stored in a secure and designated location. After your MRI is completed and when it is safe to do so, we will return the MRI-unsafe mobility aid to you.

Excellence in imaging

Northwestern Medicine Diagnostic Imaging MRI services are accredited by the American College of Radiology and have earned a "5-star" rating in patient satisfaction.

Northwestern Medicine specialists are committed to safe and effective X-ray exposure using the As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA) philosophy and featuring new technologies that give you:

  • More enhanced images
  • More detailed images
  • Greater capacity
  • A more comfortable experience


MRI can be used to diagnose or rule out certain neurological conditions, including:

Types of MRI