MRI – FAQs

MRI - Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: How long does a MRI take?
A: In general the MRI scan takes 20-35 minutes. Anesthesia is required to keep your pet motionless during the study. However, MRI is not painful, so only light anesthesia is required. Each MRI is tailored to obtain the highest quality images with the least amount of anesthesia necessary.

Q: What is contrast used for and is it safe?
A: Contrast is routinely given intravenously during the exam. It is given to patients during the MRI to help determine the underlying cause for the patient’s illness. Contrast is also beneficial in helping to outline normal from abnormal structures in the brain, spinal cord and other parts of the body such as the liver, spleen and bones.

Contrast in veterinary patients is very safe. Veterinary patients are not at risk for some side effects seen in people. Despite this fact, each patient is closely monitored for any potential reactions to the injection. Veterinary patients undergoing MRI routinely receive contrast during the procedure.
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Q: Who monitors my pet under anesthesia?
A: Your pet is a member of the family. Our goal is to provide as safe an environment as possible during your pet’s MRI. Doctors, nurses and MRI trained technicians are involved in the care of your pet from the minute you enter the hospital. Before, during and after the MRI our patients are monitored by certified anesthesia nurses who are specially trained to deal with patients undergoing MRI. Routine monitoring during anesthesia includes evaluation of respiration, heart rate, pulse ox (oxygenation) and blood pressure. Routine blood work and chest x-rays are performed prior to the MRI to minimize the risks associated with anesthesia.

The MRI studies are performed by an experienced certified MR technologist. This allows us to acquire high quality, diagnostic images in as short a time as possible, therefore further minimizing anesthetic risk. The specialist is also involved in every step of the MR study from patient positioning and monitoring to study design and interpretation. We work as a team to provide the highest level of care possible for your pet.

Q: When are MRI’s available and how soon can I get on if necessary?
A: The MRI center is open for regularly schedules exams Monday through Friday. We are also available on emergency basis on weekends, evenings and holidays. If you pet is having an emergency, contact your regular veterinarian or the Emergency Service at Pieper Memorial at (860) 347-8387.

If the specialist feels a MRI is indicated for your pet the study can be performed as soon as the same day of your appointment. Ultimately, scheduling is based on the urgency of the test and your pet’s general health. It is our primary goal to have your pet as strong as possible to make them good anesthetic candidates. Routine blood work and chest radiographs are performed prior to anesthesia. In some instances the specialist may recommend further diagnostics or supportive care such as IV fluids prior to the MRI.

Please remember pets must be fasted for anesthesia. If the MRI is to be performed the same day as your appointment, your pet should not receive any food or water from 10pm the night prior to your appointment. This is crucial to limit complications such as aspiration pneumonia during anesthesia. Clients with pets with special needs (eg. diabetes or renal disease) should consult with their regular veterinarian prior to their appointment.

Q: Where are the MRI’s performed?
A: All imaging (including MRI, CT, Ultrasound and digital radiography) is performed on-site under the care and guidance of our trained doctors and nursing staff.

Q: When will I have the results of my MRI?
A: For patients undergoing MRI examination of the nervous system, the neurologist will discuss the results of the MRI the same day. We will discuss further diagnostic or treatment options depending on the findings of the exam. Patients undergoing imaging of areas outside the nervous system will be able to discuss the results of the exam with the clinician who prescribed the test. In addition, those images will be reviewed the same day by a board-certified radiologist.

Q: How will my veterinarian know what is happening with my pet?
A: Your veterinarian has referred you to our care because they trust our ability to choose the appropriate diagnostic step and treatment protocol to suit you and your pet. However, your veterinarian is the primary caregiver for your pet. Therefore it is crucial that they are involved and informed during the diagnostic and therapeutic process. Your veterinarian will have the ability to view the MR images online. In addition when you discuss the results of your MRI with the specialist you will receive a copy of the study to give to your veterinarian for your pet’s permanent records. Our goal is to work together to provide the highest level of care possible for your pet.

Q: What’s the difference between MRI, CT and Myelography?
A: MRI is the ideal method to evaluate the nervous system. It allows us to evaluate the brain, spinal cord and nerves. MRI is also an advanced way to look at soft tissue structures such as muscle, ligaments and tendons. MRI is safe and non-invasive. Patients can have MRI’s regardless if they have had implants such as pins and plates for fracture repair and microchips. These types of implants do not cause harm to the patient during the MRI. While they may cause some artifact, our MR technologists can typically still produce high quality, diagnostic images. Some contraindications to MRI include some types of pacemakers and neurostimulators.

CT utilizes the same technology as x-rays to form images. The main advantage of CT over x-rays is it allows us to look at the body in cross section with higher detail. CT images can also be reformatted to make 3 dimensional reconstructions. CT examinations are most valuable when looking at bony structures or the lungs. It can also be used to look at soft tissues such as the abdominal organs. CT images are sometimes enhanced with the use of intravenous contrast agents. CT is generally not as good at evaluating the nervous system.

Myelography involves injecting a contrast agent in the space next to the spinal cord. X-rays are used to make images of the nervous system outlined by the contrast. Myelograms used to be the standard method for evaluating the nervous system. However, MRI has now replaced this type of imaging in most situations due to fact that it gives a great deal more information and is non-invasive. Myelography is still beneficial in situations where MRI is not available.

Q: What is non-neuro imaging?
A: MRI is not only the ideal way to evaluate the nervous system but it also allows us to look at many different areas of the body with great detail. Areas such as the musculoskeletal system (muscle, ligaments, tendons and bones) and abdominal organs (such as liver, spleen and adrenals) can be evaluated with MRI. In general, patients who require MR imaging of non-neuro areas of the body should be seen by a specialist prior to imaging so a comprehensive diagnostic plan can be formulated. In addition, once the imaging has been reviewed by the specialist and a radiologist, the specialist will be in the best position to offer further treatment for your pet. Non-neuro MR imaging is available by referral. Recent routine blood work and chest x-rays are required so we can assure your pet is a good anesthetic candidate.