Edinburgh Imaging

Having an MRI scan - FAQ

Read our FAQ's page regarding having a MR (magnetic resonance) scan.

1. What happens when I get there?
  • My scan is in the Edinburgh Imaging Facility - The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh Hospital (EIF-RIE)

    • Directions to EIF-RIE 
    • On arrival, buzz the intercom to gain access
    • A radiographer will meet you in the waiting area
    • The radiographer will go through the various forms we need to complete


  • My scan is in the Edinburgh Imaging Facility - Queen's Medical Research Institute (EIF-QMRI)

    • Directions to EIF-QMRI
    • On arrival, buzz at the main door to gain access
    • A radiographer will meet you in the waiting area
    • The radiographer will go through the various forms we need to complete


2. Who will perform the scan?

One of our MR radiographers will perform the scanning. The radiographers are highly skilled professionals with expertise in operating scanners and are part of a team of professionals who will be looking after you during your time at RIE/QMRI.

Radiographers work closely with the radiologists, who are medical doctors specialising in interpreting the images resulting from scans.


3. Why do I complete a screening form?

Since the MR scanner uses a strong magnetic field, it may pull on any metallic objects on your person or implanted in the body, the radiographer will ask you to fill in a screening form, which will be checked carefully to ensure you are safe to enter the scanning room.

Once you are taken through to the MR scanning suite, you will be asked to remove all metal objects (as the scanner is a strong magnet) such as watches, keys, mobile phones, coins, lighters, jewellery, piercings, hairgrips etc. You may be asked to change into a gown or scrubs. A locker will be provided for your belongings.


4. What happens during a scan?

After you have been screened and have changed into a gown, you will be taken into the scanning room and made comfortable on the scanner bed (using pillows and blankets as you choose). A specially shaped piece of equipment may be placed around the part of the body being scanned (this allows high quality images to be taken). Due to the unique way an MR scanner works, a loud, banging noise will be heard while the actual scanning is taking place. To reduce the noise, people wear either ear defenders and earplugs (which we provide these).

MR images are very sensitive to movement. By keeping very still during the scan you can improve the quality of the images we obtain. The MR radiographer will help make sure you are comfortable in the scanner, so you feel relaxed, settled, and secure.

Futher information on MR scans


5. Will I need an injection?

Sometimes, yes. For a few types of scan you will need a contrast agent in order to give a clearer picture of the area being scanned. It will be injected through a vein in your arm. This will not affect your driving and you will be asked to drink plenty of water to wash it out afterwards. The radiographers will be able to answer any questions you have.


6. What should I wear?

Because the machine is very sensitive to many types of metal, you will be asked to change either into a gown or 'scrubs', to ensure that you do not have any metal on you when you enter the scan room.


7. Do I need to be accompanied?

You will not need to be accompanied. The radiography team should be able to provide any support needed. However, in certain circumstances if you feel you have to be accompanied by someone into the scan room, then that person would need to go through the same screening process as you and remove all metal before going into the room.

You will not have any after effects from the scan, so can go about your normal business when you leave.


8. Is my scan dangerous?

There are no known dangers associated with MR. The scan is not painful (you will not feel anything) and since it does not use ionising radiation, there are no known side-effects.


9. What sort of images will be taken?

The type of images will depend on the study you are participating in and will be explained to you by the radiographers. Most scans just require the study subject to lie still in the scanner while the images are being taken.

All study subjects will have standard anatomical images obtained, and would be checked by one of our radiologists.

Some study subjects will have a functional MR (or fMR) scan where an activity is performed while in the scanner (e.g. looking at pictures) and, if this is applicable, it will have been explained to you when you were asked to participate in the study.

Further information on functional MR scans


10. Will I get to see my images?

We do not normally show you your images. The scanner acquires sometimes thousands of images and it can take time for the computer to process them. It may be possible to obtain some images at a later date, but you would need to complete a form and a cost is usually associated with this.

NHS Data Protection Policy on viewing your images


11. What happens to the information my scan provides?

If you are a subject having a scan for a clinical reason and not in a research study, a radiologist will look at your scan and send a report to the hospital consultant or GP who referred you for the scan. This usually takes 10 to 14 days. Please click here to view the diagram to show you the process.

If you are a study subject taking part in a research study, a radiologist will look at your scan and send a report to the doctor running the study. This process takes between 10-14 working days.

If you are a healthy person having a scan as a volunteer in a research project, a report documenting: (a) that the scan took place, (b) the type of scanning used, (c) any diagnostic information that was obtained, will be sent to the Principal Investigator of the study (if a clinician), a nominated clinically-trained co-investigator, or to your GP.


12. Will the radiographer give me my results?

No. Some scans require specialist processing by our image analysts to obtain the results, and all scans need a radiologist with the clinical expertise to interpret the images. Please do not ask the radiographer for the result as they are not able to provide it.


13. How long will a scan take?

This depends on what is being studied, but a typical examination lasts between 30 and 60 minutes. Please allow extra time too, in case the examination lasts longer than expected or simply to get changed from the hospital gown/scrubs (if appropriate).


14. Can I continue my daily tasks after?

Yes, the scan should not affect you physically in any way.


15. Does the centre cater for disabled volunteers?

All of our facilities have full disabled access and toilet facilities. Due to the strong magnetic field of the MR scanner, you will not be able to take your own wheelchair into the actual scanning room using instead, our dedicated "non-magnetic" wheelchair. If you require a hoist or another type of aid to transfer from the chair to the scanner bed, please contact us before your appointment so that we can make the necessary arrangements for your visit:

  • Edinburgh Imaging Facility RIE - Telephone: 0131 242 6627
  • Edinburgh Imaging Facility QMRI - Telephone: 0131 242 7776
For NHS patients please do not call the numbers above  - please call the number on your  appt letter, contact NHS Lothian or your GP.

The Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters: This service is offered by the City of Edinburgh Interpreting and Translation service for study subjects, carers and families. The Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters can be contacted during office hours on 0131-347 5601.


16. English is not my native language, do you provide a translation service?

The hospital and University of Edinburgh run a translation service for study subjects who do not speak English.

If this service is required, please contact us in advance of the appointment so we can make the necessary arrangements:

  • Edinburgh Imaging Facility - RIE - Telephone: 0131 242 6627 - Please note this number does NOT connect you to an NHS department
  • Edinburgh Imaging Facility - QMRI - Telephone: 0131 242 7776 - Please note this number does NOT connect you to an NHS department

For patients wishing to change the time of their NHS appointment or looking for results from an NHS scan - please contact NHS Lothian or your GP.


These are not patient information sheets for a particular study.