What to expect from an MRI scan

I've briefly touched on my recent health problems on here and, if you're following me on Twitter, you may have seen me tweet about them quite a bit. In an attempt to get to the bottom of them, my GP is in the process of sending me for a billion tests and consultations. I had an MRI last week to scan my head and, as I'd had no experience of them before, I wasn't sure what to expect. I thought there might be other people in this situation, so it made sense to document my process. I really hope this helps some of you!

Of course, this is just my experience so not everything will be universal, but the main elements should be the same. I should also warn you that it's going to be a loooong post! 

Prior to the scan
My GP recommended an MRI on the Monday and sent off the referral form to the hospital. The next Tuesday, I received a letter from the hospital telling me my appointment was for that Thursday. It was very quick and short-notice but luckily work were understanding! The letter included all the information I needed, including where to go, what the process entails and what I should wear. It also included a little health questionnaire, making sure I had no existing health conditions, such as heart or kidney problems, that might be affected by the scan.

On the day
It's important that you don't wear any metal so I had to take all of my piercings out. It took quite some time but I eventually removed all of them. My face felt so empty!Just look at my tunnel-free ear below! I had to be careful not to wear any metal so anything with zips, buttons etc was out. I wore leggings, a cotton pull-on dress and a woollen jumper. Note: If you wear a skirt, wear leggings! I'll explain why later. My shoes had metal details on but they didn't go into the scanner so the radiographer said they were fine, and I was fine to wear my bra as the underwiring didn't affect the scan. I also couldn't wear make up as there can sometimes be metallic fragments inside products. Perfect timing as I have a horrendously spotty chin right now and kept complaining about it! 

My appointment was at 1:30 with a scan time of 1:50. My mum came to pick me up at 12:45, which I thought was insanely early, but it turns out we had to queue about a half mile to get into the car park. Crazy! It's definitely worth leaving well in advance, just in case!

At the hospital
We followed the little map that the hospital sent to find the scanning centre, but it was signposted all the way so very easy to find. However, when we reached the scanning centre,the two ladies on the desk were very rude and made me feel pretty awkward. Referring to me, one said, and I quote: "Shall I deal with... it?" (Rich said it was because of my spotty chin- they weren't sure if I was human!) 

Luckily, the woman who led us out to the scanning unit was very friendly. She showed us the waiting room next to the scanner, which was a pretty depressing place as you can see here. There were only 5 seats too, so it's lucky that there was only one other person in there!

After waiting about 10 minutes, the radiographer called me over to a seperate area and went through the questionnaire I'd filled in, checking that my answers were correct. She also made sure I had nothing in my pockets and that I wasn't wearing any jewellery. She then asked me to sit back in the waiting room until they were ready for me.

Preparing for the scan
At 1:50 exactly, an old lady came out of the scanning room, propped up by two nurses, which I assumed was just because she was an ill, elderly woman. The radiographer called me over and took me into the scanning room. This was a little scary as there was a huge vault door with a massive sign on the front with a billion warnings all over it. Behind the door, the scanning room was split into two sections- the first contained all sorts of computers and crazy medical equipment, with a door that led into a larger room containing the scanner and a large window between the two. I was surprised that I was going to be in a full body scanner as I'd assumed they had little ones specifically for head scans. 

Inside the room were three people- the radiographer, the nurse and a man who looked far too young to be messing around with my brain and massive magnets! I'm not sure what his role was. He took my glasses and placed them in the "computer room" (I'm not sure what to call it), and the radiographer and nurse helped me onto the bed. There was a pillow under my head and they placed a wedge-shaped pillow under my legs to take the pressure off my back. It was very comfortable!

The radiographer clipped a white plastic cage over my head. There was a mirror on the top. She asked me whether I wanted it on or off but I wasn't fussed so she just took it off. She gave me some ear plugs and a buzzer in case I needed to contact them, then the nurse handed me some ear phones and asked if I would like some music. She gave me a choice of modern, easy listening or classical. I asked for modern but she forgot about it and I ended up with a mix of all three. I was happy with that.

The scan
I wasn't worried at all, but the radiographer and nurse were very reassuring nonetheless. The radiographer said I could keep my eyes closed or open them, but asked me to close them as I went into the scanner as there was a laser beam that would shine in my eyes. At this point, I was suddenly aware that, as my feet were facing the window and were propped up on that cushion, they could probably see right up my skirt. Lucky that I was wearing leggings! 

The bed slowly moved back into the scanner, and I have to admit, I was surprised by how small it was in there. Luckily I'm not at all claustrophobic! I was also surprised that it was very light in there as there was a blue-white light shining from somewhere behind my head. I kept my eyes open for a bit, but it got a bit boring staring at the white surface 6 inches above my face, so I closed them at that point.

Through the headphones, the man told me that the first scan was going to be 20 seconds. I was ready for a really loud noise, but it wasn't as deafening as I expected. It started quite quietly, like a dull roar, and slowly built up. I lay as still as possible and found it surprisingly easy- I thought I was going to be a lot more fidgety!

My next scan was 3 minutes, and the music started during this scan- Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal. The bed vibrated a little, but I actually found it quite soothing. If it wasn't quite as light in there, I would definitely have fallen asleep! The next scan was 4 minutes and I found myself becoming very relaxed. I didn't really think of anything, I just lay there listening to the music and chilling out!

The final scan was 90 seconds and the man warned me that it would be a lot noisier than the others so the bed might move a bit. It was pretty loud but, again, not defeaning. He was right about the bed though- It was shaking all over the place like something out of Poltergeist! I just found it so difficult not to burst out laughing. First it was shaking my head, then shaking my legs, then shaking my whole body. I just found it really funny!

After the scan
After that scan, the bed suddenly started rolling back out. The nurse asked if I was ok and of course I was fine. They unclipped the cage on my head, then asked me to sit up. I just sat straight up as usual and was surprised that both the nurse and radiographer reached out with cries of "Woah, woah, woah!" I stood up and was suddenly hit by a crazy dizziness. They told me to sit down for a bit and fetched my glasses, which really helped. 

As I walked out of the room, I felt like I'd just got off a rollercoaster. I had that light-headed feeling where the world feels like it's tilting, or like you're walking on air. It suddenly clicked why the old lady needed help getting back to the waiting room. I sat down for five minutes, by which point I had recovered, albeit with a slight headache, then the radiographer led us back to the main entrance. We were out of the hospital at 2:10. It was such a quick process!

What next?

The radiographer told me that I should get a letter in about 10 days and will need to make an appointment to see my GP and discuss the results. Hopefully everything will get sorted out!

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by my experience. It was not scary at all, and was over so quickly. I know a lot of people worry about MRIs but please don't- It's over before you know it! 


  1. Excellent post Becky- as I've only ever been on the outside if one it's really interesting to know what it's like inside :) hope they get to the bottom of yiur problems soon.

  2. I think it's so great of you to make a post like this, I'm sure you've put a number of readers at ease if they experience this scan now or in the future! I hope everything goes good for you! xx

    Olivia | Thoughts, fashion and beauty.

  3. I am so glad your experience was okay and hopefully so will be your results. I think I'm partly claustrophobic so I don't know how I would feel in this kind of situation but I'm glad yours went well :) Is it okay to say that I laughed at the shaking your body part of this post. It was quite funny to imagine anyone in that situation, even myself.

    1. Haha that's ok, I laughed too! It felt so funny!

  4. Wow I am so ridiculously proud of you! how you remained so calm and so cool. The fact the play MJ in the scanner is pretty damn cool! This has been a really interesting post I would never of know otherwise- My older sister has had MRI scans for her Brain haemorrhage but she has short-term memory loss so she never remember what actually happens! (not quite a good messenger bless her!!).

    But now I know!!

    I wish you all the luck in the world for the results and hope you are well xxxxx

    1. Thank you, lovely! I hope your sister gets her memory back soon.

  5. I thought reading this post might make a bit more open to the thought of having an MRI scan but I'm just as scared of the idea as I was before. Well done for being a brave little soldier!x

  6. Honest, lifestyle posts are the best to read! Hope you're ok and everything goes well. I agree, MRIs aren't scary at all! I had a full body one to check for nerve issues with my scoliosis, and I was in the machine for 75 minutes without being able to move an inch. I can imagine the experience is very stressful for claustrophobic people, but not twitching was worst for me!
    lily x

  7. It sounds so interesting!
    I hope everything will be fine! :)

  8. This is such a great post idea, and one which I would've found helpful and reassuring before the first scan I had. I'm sure it will reassure those who are nervous about their upcoming scans because they don't know what to expect.

    I've had two MRI scans during the last six or seven years, (once for a broken wrist, and the second for back injuries) but your experience sounds a little different to mine. I wasn't allowed to keep my bra on; getting told by a young male technician to 'remove your bra' was a new one, that's for sure! Haha! I also didn't get music to listen to, a cage over my head (thank God!), and I didn't have issues with dizziness afterwards. Perhaps the experience differs from hospital to hospital?

    I'm surprised to hear how relaxed you were inside the machine. I'm really claustrophobic and during my last one I freaked out when I was first sent in to the machine and had to get out again. I pissed off a couple of the staff. After they put my back in feet first, I managed to cope by concentrating on the little bit of ceiling I could see, but my heart was racing the entire time. I don't cope well in small spaces. The scan as a whole didn't bother me; I actually found the sound oddly comforting!

    I hope that the scan gets to the bottom of whatever you're going through, and that you feel better really soon. x

  9. I hope your results come back ok! And thanks for such a detailed post about your experience!

    I had an MRI scan around this time last year after months of persistent headaches & my Doctor wanted to rule some stuff out.
    I was so nervous! And I just remember focusing so hard on trying to stay still that I completely tensed up, except for my finger that kept doing this weird twitchy thing... and they played local radio through my headphones so all I heard in between the sound of the scans were traffic reports - not the most calming of sounds! Luckily my results were fine but it certainly was an experience I'll remember! Sadly I never got to see the picture of inside my head though :-/

    Victoria x

  10. What a great post!

    I had no idea people were scared of MRI scans, although it makes sense, and your post explains it really well!
    My boyfriend and I participated in a study a few years ago where we had to have them - we both almost fell asleep in there - so relaxing! We were allowed to wear jeans though, and I was told nothing about makeup either - they said the metal in the zipper is unlikely to interfere with it very much.
    Perhaps with yours being there for actual health reasons they need to be more vigorous.
    As for how small it is, if you're claustrophobic it might not be nice but we were given a panic button just in case!

    I hope you get to the bottom of what's wrong and that you can be well soon Becky!

    This looks terrifying. I think its amazing you spoke about it though, I think i'd get really claustrophobic.

    Kelly from | Day Dreams & Daisy Chains

  12. I would have loved to read this before the two brain scans I had a few years back. Great job :)


I read all comments and appreciate every single one, even if I can't always reply. If you have a question or need a reply, feel free to tweet me @BeckyBedbug- I always reply to tweets!

Blog Design by Get Polished | Copyright Becky Craggs 2017