What is MRI?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive medical test that physicians use to diagnose medical conditions. MRI uses a powerful magnetic field, radio frequency pulses, and a computer to produce detailed pictures of organs, soft tissues, bone, and virtually all other internal body structures. Unlike X-rays and CT scans, an MRI doesn’t use ionizing radiation which is harmful.

What is the difference between an MRI and a CT scan?

A CT scan is really just an x-ray spinning in a circle, so it still gives harmful radiation. Like an x-ray, the images show bones as white, soft tissue and gray, and fat as dark. It is very good for looking at bones that may be broken and for looking at soft tissues in the chest, abdomen, and pelvis. On the downside, CT scans have radiation so they should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. Also, CT is not good to evaluate the brain, spine, or joints.

MRI has no radiation so its very safe. It creates amazing images using only radio waves and magnetic fields. MRI is excellent for the brain, spine, soft tissues of the extremities, and joints. It is also very good for evaluation of the abdomen and pelvis, like CT.

For a sports injury, is an MRI better than CT scan?

An MRI is the right place to start for any sort of sports injury. MRI shows the soft tissues, like cartilage, ligaments, and tendons very well, while CT just shows the bones well. MRI is also very sensitive for bone injuries and is superior to CT for bone injuries where there is no displaced fracture. If a significant injury is found on your MRI scan then you would be advised to see a doctor for treatment advice.

What is an MRI scan with contrast?

If a physician suspects that there is an inflammatory process or a tumor they may order the MRI scan with contrast. The contrast liquid is injected into the patient’s vein and anything that has an abnormal blood supply will show up bright on the MRI images. Though very rare, patients can be allergic to the contrast liquid so it should not be administered unless absolutely necessary. Also, it does significantly add to the cost of an MRI procedure so to keep the process simple and affordable we do not offer MRI scans with contrast.

Do I need contrast with my MRI?

Depending on your diagnosis, your doctor might order your exam with contrast. However, at First Look MRI we do not perform any exams with contrast.

What are the different MRI machine types and what difference do they make to the quality/outcome of the scan?

There are two main types of MRI scanners: A “Closed” (or “Standard”) and an “Open” MRI machine. A Closed MRI scanner has a long tube and a high magnetic field strength. It provides Superior images and shorter scan times. An Open MRI scanner has two flat perpendicular plates and is open around the sides, providing an easier experience for patients suffering from claustrophobia, even if the resolution provided is lower.

What is the difference between an open and a closed MRI?

Open MRI and Closed MRI work in a similar way but there are a few differences between them. In any MRI unit, there is an invisible magnetic field around the scanner generated by the scanner magnet itself. In a standard closed magnet, the field is congruent and unbroken therefore the magnet can achieve its highest capable field strength which is usually 1-3 Tesla in strength. Open magnets have a break in the magnetic field (hence “open”) The open aspect of the magnet is appealing to patients who are claustrophobic or have a larger body type, as they may find an open magnet more tolerable than a closed one.

At First Look MRI we have both scanners; an “open” scanner at our Atlanta Braselton location and a “closed” scanner at our Atlanta Brookhaven and Atlanta Alpharetta locations. Keep in mind however that the term “closed” is not entirely accurate since there are openings at both ends of the scanner

What type of scanner do you have?

We have an Open Hitachi .3T Airis Elite at our Atlanta Braselton location and a Wide Bore Siemens 1.5T Espree scanners at our other locations.

Why does it make so much noise? What are the different sounds?

When the MRI scan starts, electricity is rapidly pulsed through large coils of metal (called gradients) inside the scanner. This causes them to have a magnetic field that is different from the main magnetic field and they are, In turn, pulled upon. The gradients snapping back and forth in place from the rapidly pulsed electric current is what is causes the banging noise.

Are MRI’s safe?

Yes, MRI’s are considered extremely safe. Unlike other radiology modalities such as X-ray, CT, or Nuclear Medicine, there is no ionizing radiation involved in an MRI study.

While the MRI exam itself is perfectly safe. The danger is with jewelry, metallic material in clothing, or implanted devices within the body which can cease to function, cause an electronic current, burn, or shift during the MRI procedure. Any metallic object accidentally allowed into the MRI scan room may act as a projectile with the potential to cause serious injury.

Who shouldn’t get an MRI scan?

We screen all clients during the booking process and right before entering the MRI environment. If you have any type of medical implant or metallic implant in your body you should answer yes to that question during the booking process and a technologist will contact you before your scan to determine whether or not it is safe for you to proceed with the MRI exam. Implants are categorized as MRI Safe, MRI Conditional, or MRI Unsafe.

  • MRI Safe indicates that the device or implant has been demonstrated to present no risk to the patient if introduced to any MRI environment. It may still affect the quality of the scan by creating artifact. Artifact is a distortion of your image due to the device or implant.
  • MRI Conditional indicates that the device or implant has been demonstrated to present no risk in a SPECIFIED MRI environment. The special conditions are normally found on the implant card provided to the patient after surgery. This card must be presented for some devices or implants before your technologist can determine if it is safe for you to enter the MRI room.
  • MRI Unsafe indicates that the device or implant has been demonstrated to present a risk to the patient in ALL MRI environments.

In the first trimester of pregnancy MRI’s should not be performed unless it is an emergency and specifically ordered by a physician.

What type of MRI scans do you provide?

We perform MRI examinations on all major body parts including neurological examinations of the brain and spine, abdominal and pelvic imaging, and imaging of the joints and extremities. Additionally, we offer vascular studies of the head and neck, abdomen, and pelvis. Below you can find more details on each scan type:

Brain MRI
Produces very detailed pictures of the brain and is commonly used to study people with problems such as headaches, seizures, weakness, hearing loss, and blurry vision. It can also be used to further evaluate an abnormality seen on a CT scan. During a brain MRI, a special device called a head coil is placed around the person’s head to help produce very detailed pictures of the brain. The head coil does not touch the person, and the person can see through large gaps in the coil.

Spine MRI
Commonly used to look for a herniated disk or narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis) in people with neck, arm, back, and/or leg pain. It is also the best test to use to look for a disc herniation in a person with a history of prior back surgery.

Bone and joint MRI
Used to check virtually all the bones, joints, and soft tissues. MRI can be used to identify injured tendons, ligaments, muscles, cartilage, and bones. It can also be used to look for infections and masses.

MRI of the abdomen
Frequently used to look more specifically at an abnormality seen on another test, such as an ultrasound or a CT scan. The exam is usually tailored to look at just the liver, pancreas, gallbladder or adrenal glands.

Pelvic MRI
for women provides a detailed look at the ovaries and uterus and is often used to follow up an abnormality seen on ultrasound. A pelvic MRI is also used to look at the bones and muscles of the pelvis.

Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA)
Depicts the blood vessels. The blood vessels in the neck (carotid and vertebral arteries) and brain are frequently studied by MRA to look for areas of constriction (narrowing) or dilatation (widening). In the abdomen, the arteries supplying blood to the kidneys are also frequently examined using this technique. Contrast is not necessary to perform an MRA

Due to their low hydrogen content, a CT scan is much better for examining the lungs. Nevertheless, MRI can still be used to visualize large lung tumors and soft tissue injuries of the chest muscles. Breast MRI is almost always ordered with the use of contrast to look for malignancies, therefore we cannot perform those exams. We can, however, perform chest MRIs specifically for breast implant evaluation or rupture. These exams do not require contrast and can only be performed at our Atlanta Brookhaven and Atlanta Alpharetta locations.

Can I have an MRI if I am pregnant?

MRI is discouraged in the first trimester of pregnancy, after that it is perfectly fine.

Can you scan my entire body?

We cannot scan your entire body at one time as each body part needs to be scanned individually. We do offer several packages which offer multiple body parts and you can create your own package to save on cost.

Can I eat before my scan?


What if I have claustrophobia?

If you have an issue with claustrophobia there is no need to worry. We have an open MRI machine in our Atlanta Braselton location which is great for claustrophobic patients.

What if I get claustrophobic during my MRI scan?

It is very common for people to get claustrophobic during an MRI but it’s nothing to worry about. In the scanner, you will be given a small “squeeze tube” to hold in your hand throughout the procedure. If you ever feel uncomfortable just squeeze the tube and you will be removed immediately.

If you prefer to go ahead with the scan, you can ask for a washcloth to cover your eyes, listen to soothing music, or bring a friend or family member into the scan room with you.

How do I prepare for my scan?

Wear loose-fitting clothes like sweatpants and t-shirts with no metallic zippers. Avoid wearing tight-fitting spandex type clothing which may have metal laced within them. Do not wear jewelry or bras with metal wiring.

What Happens During an MRI scan?

After a safety assessment you will be asked to and lie on a table that slides in and out of the scanner. At this point, it is important to remain still. You will be given a “squeeze tube” in case you have any needs or concerns during the test. Once the scan process begins the machine will start making a lot of different loud sounds. Do not be alarmed, these are normal. While the images are being recorded, it’s very important to lie still and follow the technologist’s simple instructions. The images obtained from your MRI scan are very sensitive to motion. Even the slightest movement can distort the image and limit its diagnostic value.

How long does an exam take?

It depends on the exam type, but typically it takes between 20 and 40 minutes per examination.

Can a family member or a friend come into the scan room with me?


Who performs the exam?

A registered technologist will perform your MRI scan. At First Look MRI all our technologists are registered by the ARRT which is the national accrediting body for MRI technologists.

What should I expect after I complete my exam?

After your exam is done, you will be given a disk with the scan images that you can share with your doctor. Within 24 hours, an email will be sent to you that contains a written report. If you have ordered the video report it will be sent along with your written report in the same email. If you were to order a stat exam, you will receive your results within 90 minutes.

Who will diagnose my exam?

Our board-certified radiologist, Dr. Brian Gay will read or interpret your exam. His subspecialties include general Radiology, bone imaging/musculoskeletal, neuroradiology and a fellowship in Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

Can I have a scan performed without a referring physician?

Yes. Like traditional imaging centers your doctor can order the scan and receive the results directly if you prefer, but you can also order the MRI scan yourself and see a doctor if the examination is abnormal. If you do require a doctor we can help you find the right professional to help treat your symptoms.

Do you accept insurance?

In order to provide affordable scans, we do not accept insurance. We can, however, provide you with an itemized invoice and you may be able to deduct the cost from your health savings account or submit the claim to your insurance.

How can I pay for my exam?

We accept credit card, debit card, and Care Credit. No cash or personal checks are accepted.

How will I receive my report?

Your report will be sent to you by email within 24 hours.

Why is your price so low?

Good question! Here are three simple reasons why:

  1. We do not have the overhead associated with billing and collecting from insurance companies and we focus on doing one thing well: just MRI.
  2. Since we are a small, independent company, our systems and processes are simple and streamlined in contrast to those in large companies and hospital systems.
  3. Unlike investor-owned imaging centers and hospitals, which are on a quest for large profits to satisfy the investors and/or to support the non-profitable divisions in the hospital system, we are motivated by the desire to provide value directly to patients and empower people to take charge of their healthcare.
When will I get the results?

Results will be delivered to you by email within 24 hours. You can get stat results within 90 minutes for an additional charge.

Do I have to be a Georgia resident to take advantage of your services?

No. All are welcome.

How far in advance do I have to book?

It is advised to book online or call ahead of time to ensure availability, however, openings may be available the same day and walk-ins are welcome.

What should I bring to my exam?

If you’ve been referred by a doctor, please bring the prescription or request form you were given. This ensures we know precisely what type of study to perform. In some cases, the prescription indicates important information about your history that allows us to further tailor the exam to your medical needs.

If you haven’t visited a physician prior to your MRI exam, please relay to our staff the exact symptoms you are experiencing. Any information related to potential causes of symptoms will also be helpful.

You will also need to bring your photo ID, method of payment, and any related films and reports if they were not performed at First Look MRI.

What should I expect on my visit?

You will not feel any pain while undergoing an MRI, and no special diet or preparation is required before your exam. You can resume normal activities immediately following the scan.

Before entering the room with the MRI scanner, you’ll be asked to remove all items from your pockets and all other metallic objects from your body. These can include belts with buckles, shoes or bras with metallic clasps, jewelry, eyeglasses, and dentures. You may be asked to change into paper shorts and top if your clothing has metal zippers or buttons.

It’s very important you lie completely still during the procedure to obtain the clearest image. Even with an open MRI system, there’s a certain amount of enclosure with the equipment. If you easily experience claustrophobia you may feel uncomfortable.

We make sure you’re as comfortable as possible during our exam. We offer earplugs to minimize the volume of the testing equipment, and you’ll also be able to communicate through an intercom.

Your MRI could take as little as 30 minutes or as long an hour, depending on the type of study. Because MRI uses magnets to create images, patients with pacemakers, aneurysm clips, insulin pumps, and certain other implanted devices cannot undergo MRI. If you have an implanted device inside your body, please let us know prior to your study.

If you have a question that hasn’t been answered above you can call us anytime during business hours at 470-639-1262. Our friendly staff will be happy to address any queries or doubts you may have. If you’re ready to make an appointment, you can Schedule Your Appointment online now.

If you want to see what others are saying about our MRI services, check out our Reviews