helpline 01494 601 400

MRI unit

If you have any questions after reading through the following information about MRI scans, you can contact the MRI department on 01494 601 360. It is also important to call us if you think you may be unsuitable for an MRI scan. This will help you to avoid making an unnecessary journey, and will enable us to give the valuable appointment slot to someone else.

What are MRI scans?

MRI (or magnetic resonance imaging) is a type of scan that gives very clear and detailed pictures of the body. At Epilepsy Society we use MRI scans to get detailed pictures of the brain. These scans are helpful to look at the structure of the brain and try to find the cause of an individual’s epilepsy.

MRIs use a very strong magnetic field to produce these pictures. Our scanner has a 3 Tesla (or ‘3T’) magnet. All of our scans are reviewed (reported) by an experienced neuro radiologist.

Can anyone have an MRI?

Metal objects in or near the machine can affect, or be affected by, the scanner. Before having an MRI scan, you need to remove any metal objects you have on you such as: belts, underwired bras, jewellery and piercings, hearing aids, coins and keys.

You may not be able to have an MRI scan if any of the following apply to you:  

  • you have a cardiac pacemaker or an implanted   heart recording device
  • you have a cochlear implant
  • you have a vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) or any other type of implanted electrical device
  • you have had any operations involving metal
  • you work, or have ever worked, with drilling or milling machines, or you have done any metal  work
  • you have ever had any sort of foreign object enter your body such as from an accident or   injury
  • you weigh more than 20 stone (280 lbs or 127 kgs)
  • you are pregnant or there is any chance that you are pregnant
  • you have a large tattoo or permanent eyelash  tint
  • you may be anxious or claustrophobic during  the MRI.

Please let us know immediately if any of the above apply to you. Call us on 01494 601 360.

Before you have a scan

You can eat, drink and take your medications as normal before a scan. Do not wear any hair products such as gel, spray, or oil, or heavy make-up, mascara or glittery cosmetics.

We will ask you to complete a safety checklist   to make sure that it is safe for you to have a scan.

What happens during a scan?

We will ask you to lie down on a couch, which will move partly inside the scanner. Ours is a short magnet, which means that only the upper part of your body will be inside the machine. You will be able to see out of the machine by looking in a mirror system and can talk to us through an intercom. You will also have an emergency buzzer so that we can respond instantly if you feel unwell or uncomfortable.

The MRI makes a loud noise when it is working so we will give you some. An MRI scan is usually a series of short scans, with breaks in between, rather than one long scan.

What is fMRI?

fMRI stands for functional magnetic resonance imaging. These scans are done using the same scanner as a standard MRI. They enable us to map which areas of the brain are used when performing tasks such as looking at photographs or thinking of words.

We will ask you to do either language or movement tasks during your scan. We will then process your scan, which will highlight which areas of your brain are being activated during the task. fMRIs can be helpful if you are being considered for surgery for your epilepsy or for other treatments for you.   

Other scans

If necessary, your consultant may refer you for further scans at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery.