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MRI of the Pelvis: About This Test

Female anatomy

What is it?

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a test that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make pictures of the organs and structures inside the body. An MRI of the pelvis can give the doctor information about a woman's uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. The scan is sometimes used to check a man's prostate and seminal vesicles. It also can check the rectum and anal area.

When you have an MRI, you lie on a table and the table moves into the MRI machine.

Why is this test done?

An MRI of the pelvis can help find problems such as tumours in the ovaries, uterus, prostate, rectum, and anus. It also can be used to look for an anal fistula (a tube-shaped passage from the anal canal to a hole in the skin near the anus) and look for the cause of pelvic pain in women, such as endometriosis.

How do you prepare for the test?

In general, there's nothing you have to do before this test, unless your doctor tells you to.

Tell your doctor if you get nervous in tight spaces. You may get a medicine to help you relax. If you think you'll get this medicine, be sure you have someone to take you home.

For some pelvic MRI tests, you may be asked to not eat or drink for several hours before the test.

How is the test done?

Before the test

  • You will remove all metal objects, such as hearing aids, dentures, jewellery, watches, and hairpins.
  • You will take off all or most of your clothes and change into a gown. If you do leave some clothes on, make sure you take everything out of your pockets.
  • You may have contrast material (dye) put into your arm through a tube called an IV. Contrast material helps doctors see specific organs, blood vessels, and most tumours.

During the test

  • You will lie on a table that's part of the MRI scanner.
  • The table will slide into the space that contains the magnet.
  • Inside the scanner, you will hear a fan and feel air moving. You may hear tapping, thumping, or snapping noises. You may be given earplugs or headphones to reduce the noise.
  • You will be asked to hold still during the scan. You may be asked to hold your breath for short periods.
  • You may be alone in the scanning room. But a technologist will watch through a window and talk with you during the test.

How is the test done?

  • You may have contrast material (dye) put into your arm through a tube called an IV.
  • You will lie on a table that's part of the MRI scanner.
  • The table will slide into the space that contains the magnet.
  • Inside the scanner, you will hear a fan and feel air moving. You may hear tapping, thumping, or snapping noises. You may be given earplugs or headphones to reduce the noise.
  • You will be asked to hold still during the scan. You may be asked to hold your breath for short periods.
  • You may be alone in the scanning room. But a technologist will watch through a window and talk with you during the test.

How does having an MRI of the pelvis feel?

You won't have pain from the magnetic field or radio waves used for the MRI test. But you may be tired or sore from lying in one position for a long time.

If a contrast material is used, you may feel some coolness when it is put into your IV.

In rare cases, you may feel:

  • Tingling in the mouth if you have metal dental fillings.
  • Warmth in the area being checked. This is normal. Tell the technologist if you have nausea, vomiting, a headache, dizziness, pain, burning, or breathing problems.

How long does the test take?

The test usually takes 30 to 60 minutes but can take as long as 2 hours.

What happens after the test?

  • You will probably be able to go home right away. It depends on the reason for the test.
  • You can go back to your usual activities right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines you take. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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