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FAQ

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Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between a CT scan and a MRI scan?
How do I prepare for my scan?
Will I need an injection?
Can I have a scan if I am breast feeding?
What if I am pregnant?
Why do you want to know about any metal implants in my head if I am not having my head scanned?
What happens if I can't lie still or want to get off the table?
Can I bring a relative or friend into the room with me?
Are there any side effects of MRI scans?
What if I wear metal braces on my teeth?
How long do I have to wait after the scan before I can go home?
Why are some scans rebateable and others not?
What is meant by a licensed MRI machine?
Can young children have a MRI scan?


 What is the difference between a CT scan and a MRI scan?

Although CT and MRI machines can look quite similar, a CT scanner uses x-rays and ionising radiation, whilst a MRI scanner uses only a magnet and radio waves to generate an image. MRI images provide more detailed, higher quality images of the soft tissue structures in the body, and do not require exposure to ionising radiation.

 How do I prepare for my scan?

In most cases you can eat normally and take medications as usual before your scan. For some abdominal and pelvic studies we will ask you to fast before the scan to help us get the best possible pictures - this will be discussed with you when confirming your appointment. If you are claustrophobic and are booked to have sedation for your scan, it is important you do not eat or drink anything for 5 hours before your appointment time. You will also need to arrange for someone to drive you or accompany you home from Specialist MRI following your scan. If you have any previous images or scans of the same area, we also recommend that you bring those with you.

 Will I need an injection?

Some studies require an injection of contrast into a vein in your arm. The MRI contrast is called gadolinium and does not contain iodine like CT and x-ray contrast. Gadolinium is widely used and considered to have a very low risk for allergic reaction. Patients with severe kidney disease may not be able to have a contrast injection.

If we do need to give you a contrast injection - you can still eat/drink normally before your scan, and you can drive home as normal.

 Can I have a scan if I am breast feeding?

An MRI scan that does not require contrast injection involves no additional problems for breast feeding women. If you do require a contrast injection there are two options. Current safety literature indicates that in the first 24 hours after an injection of contrast, less than 0.0004% of the dose given to the mother is absorbed by the infant, and it is therefore considered safe for the mother and infant to consider breast feeding after receiving such an injection. If however you are still concerned, we would advise you to abstain from breast feeding for 24 hours after the examination (ie. bottle feeding instead) and expressing and discarding breast milk during this period. Please contact our staff on (02) 9557 1464 if you have any questions.

 What if I am pregnant?

Even though we are not using x-rays, we do not normally scan pregnant women. If you are unsure if you are pregnant, we recommend that you wait until after a menstrual period or after a negative pregnancy test before having your scan. In some urgent circumstances MRI may be done during pregnancy when the medical question cannot be answered with other studies.

 Why do you want to know about any metal implants in my head if I am not having my head scanned?

Although we generally only scan one part of the body at a time, most of your body is within the strong magnetic field. Metallic devices can cause interference with the scan and could cause you serious injury if present within the body.

 What happens if I can't lie still or want to get off the table?

Throughout the scan, the MRI Technologist is in contact with you through an intercom, and is able to speak to you between each set of scans. You will also be provided with a ‘buzzer' so that if at any time you need to stop the scan, the Technologist can come in and assist you.

 Can I bring a relative or friend into the room with me?

If you would like a friend or family member in the scan room with you, the same safety check procedure will apply to them too. As long as the person has not had any surgery or implants that would make it unsafe for them to come into the room, it is usually possible for them to be in the room while you have your scan.

 Are there any side effects of MRI scans?

A number of studies have been done, and to date there are no known side effects observed in patients undergoing MRI scans, or to family members/MRI staff who may also be in the room during a scan. Some patients may feel warm or experience a tingling sensation during the examination. Any person who is in the scan room during an examination is advised to wear earplugs (which we will provide) in order to minimise the effect of noise from the scanner.

 What if I wear metal braces on my teeth?

Braces are made from non-magnetic metal so there is no danger to you in having a MRI scan. If you are having a scan of the brain or neck, the artefact caused by the braces may impact on the quality of the images. The severity of the artefact will be assessed during the procedure, and in most cases the scan can proceed as normal.

 How long do I have to wait after the scan before I can go home?

Unless we have given you sedation, or you are waiting for your films, you are able to go home immediately after the scan. If you have had sedation, you will need to remain with us for approximately 1 hour from the time of injection. After that you can go as long as someone is with you to accompany you home. If you are waiting for your films, please allow an hour after completion of your scan for the films and report to be ready.

 Why are some scans rebateable and others not?

MRI scans of many parts of the body, looking for the most common problems, are covered by Medicare and are eligible for a Medicare benefit. These include MRI studies of the brain, spine and musculoskeletal studies. Medicare has very specific rules about eligibility for Breast MRI, Cardiac, and Abdominal and Pelvic MRI studies, and does not cover some specialised scans (such as functional MRI and spectroscopy). When a non-Medicare eligible scan is performed, and there is no benefit available from Medicare, you would be responsible for the full cost of that study.

 What is meant by a licensed MRI machine?

The Australian Government restricts the number of licensed MRI machines that are allowed to perform studies which are eligible for a Medicare benefit. Specialist MRI operates one licensed (Medicare) scanner, and one limited licensed scanner. The limited license was introduced on 1 November 2012 to cover Medicare eligibility for certain cancer scans and certain GP referred scans for children. Workers Compensation patients and others having non-Medicare eligible scans, and patients having research studies have scans at our Practice, and payment for these scans is independent of the licensing system.

 Can young children have a MRI scan?

MRI studies can be difficult for young children, as they need to be very still in order to get clear images. For this reason very young children often require a general anaesthetic in a hospital environment in order to have a successful MRI scan.