MRI

MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. An MRI scan uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to create pictures on a computer, of tissues, organs and other structures inside your body.

Some people have epilepsy because they have some damage in their brain. This may have been caused by scar tissue from an illness or a brain injury. An MRI scan is used to show this type of damage.

What it involves

The MRI scanner is like a tunnel. It is about 1.5 metres (5 feet) long and is surrounded by a large circular magnet. You lie on a bed, which then slides into the open-ended scanner. During the scan, the MRI will send images of your brain to a computer, which will show different types of brain tissue in different colours.

The MRI scan itself is not painful. The radiographer who does the scan might need to inject you in your hand or arm, with a harmless dye. This is to make the tissue show up as clearly as possible.  A few people have had allergies to the dye, so the radiographer will ask if you have any allergies first.

You need to keep still while you are being scanned, otherwise the scan picture may be blurred.

The MRI scan can take up to an hour.

How you might feel during your MRI scan

The MRI is noisy when it is scanning but you will be given earplugs or headphones to protect your hearing. The inside of the scanner is like a hollow open-ended tube. You might find this worrying if you are uncomfortable in confined spaces. You may be given a buzzer to hold, so that you can let the radiographer know if you feel uncomfortable during the scan.

To help you to relax, you might be able to listen to music, or watch a DVD while the scan is done. A relative or friend might be able to go into the room with you.

If you feel nervous, or can’t keep still while the scan is being done, you could be offered medicine to help you relax or sleep.  Young children and people with learning disabilities may need a very light general anaesthetic to make sure that they keep completely still during the scan.

After your MRI scan

After your scan, a radiologist will read the pictures taken by the MRI. They will then send your results to the doctor who arranged your scan. This will usually be your epilepsy specialist.