How to prepare for a brain MRI?

You should not have to do too much to prepare for a head MRI. You may be able to eat, drink and take your medications as usual. However, if your doctor ordered a scan for other parts of your body, such as your abdominal region, they may instruct you not to drink or eat four to six hours before the test. Because an MRI machine is essentially a magnet, it can interact with metals, thus creating a blurry image. That’s why it helps to leave metal items at home before your appointment, or remove them before you enter the scanning room. You can prepare for your scan ahead of time by removing the following items from your body and pockets:

  • Body piercings
  • Pens
  • Jewelry
  • Hearing aids
  • Pins
  • Hairpins
  • Zippers or any metal clothing fasteners
  • Removable dental work

It’s also best to avoid wearing makeup, nail polish, hair products, sunscreen and antiperspirants, as these items could contain metal particles. If you wear glasses, you will need to remove them when it’s time for the scan. Before you schedule your appointment for a brain MRI, make sure to inform the medical staff if you have any of the following conditions.

  • Kidney disease: If you have a history of kidney failure, kidney disease or liver disease, you may not be able to receive gadolinium, an intravenous contrast agent, which helps improve the accuracy of an MRI scan. Gadolinium increases your risk of nephrogenic systemic fibrosis, which is a disease that affects the skin and other organs.
  • Pregnancy: There is a link between gadolinium and an increased risk of harm to the fetus. Therefore, doctors recommend women should not get an MRI with gadolinium anytime during pregnancy unless necessary.
  • Implanted Metallic/Electronic Devices: Some implants or orthopedic metals are perfectly safe for MRI scans.  There are a few that absolutely cannot be introduced into a magnetic field that is created by an MRI scan.  A few of these non-safe implants include a pacemaker, defibrillator, neuro-stimulator, glucose monitor, insulin pump or aneurysm clips.  There are many more, but you should clearly notify your technologist of any implants devices that you may have.
  • Claustrophobia: Claustrophobia is a fear of enclosed spaces. If you experience claustrophobia, you might speak with your doctor about taking anti-anxiety medication for the test. Many people worry about claustrophobia when it’s time for their MRI. Medical staff understand MRIs can seem frightening to individuals with anxiety or claustrophobia, but they are there to help you remain calm throughout the entire experience.