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What Is an MRI?

ImageMRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. This medical imaging technique uses powerful magnetic-field-emitting radio waves to create detailed pictures of areas inside your body. The MRI produces soft-tissue images and is used to distinguish normal, healthy soft-tissue from diseased tissue.

Depending on what information your doctor needs, an MRI scan may require the use of a contrast agent, a medical substance used to give contrast to structures or fluids in the body. This helps physicians see certain structures in your body.

Our Technology

Gwinnett Medical Center uses the most powerful scanner available to patients today—the 3T (three-tesla) MRI. The magnet strength is the key to image clarity. The stronger the magnet, the clearer the image. The 3T is 60,000 times more powerful than Earth's magnetic field.

The 3T is incredibly patient-friendly and has been designed to make scans easier for obese patients and those who may experience anxiety. Watch a video of the 3T or Essenza MRI in action.

MRI Services at Northside Hospital

Neurological exams of the:

  • Brain
  • Cervical spine
  • Thoracic spine
  • Lumbar spine
  • Brachial plexus
  • Lumbar plexus

Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) exams of the:

  • Intracranial vessels (MRA head)
  • Extracranial vessels/carotid arteries (MRA neck)
  • Renal arteries and abdominal aorta

ImageMusculoskeletal exams of the following body parts:

  • Shoulder
  • Elbow
  • Wrist
  • Hip
  • Knee
  • Ankle
  • Hand
  • Finger
  • Pelvis/sacroiliac joints
  • Foot
  • Toe
  • Humerus
  • Forearm
  • Thigh
  • Lower leg

Other exams:

  • Breast
  • Cardiac
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome
  • Abdomen—liver, kidneys, pancreas and adrenal glands
  • Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)
  • Soft-tissue neck

Preparing for an MRI Scan

Download our brochure on MRI Scans at Northside Hospital.

No special preparation is needed prior to the exam unless your doctor has given you other instructions. You will be asked to complete a safety screening form and answer questions pertaining to your medical history. Please wear loose clothing without zippers or metallic parts.

What to Expect

Once you have arrived at a Northside Hospital imaging location, you will be asked to remove all metal objects and will be positioned on a special table by a technologist. The table will then slide into the MRI scanner. With the exception of head or neck scans, your head will remain outside the device.

For clear pictures, you will be asked to hold very still and relax. In some cases, you will be asked to hold your breath for short periods. Any movement, especially of your head or back—even moving your jaw to talk—during the scan will seriously blur the pictures. While the machine is taking pictures, you will hear rapidly repeating, thumping noises coming from the walls of the scanner. For additional comfort, earplugs may be provided. This procedure will usually be repeated several times, and the entire exam ordinarily takes around 30 minutes to complete.

Watch this video for more information on MRI procedures and technology: English | Spanish

Is your child having an MRI? Our cartoon video will let them know what to expect.


Be sure to let us know if any of the following applies to you or to the person who accompanies you into the exam room:

  • Pregnancy
  • Aneurysm clip(s)
  • Cardiac pacemaker
  • Implanted cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)
  • Electronic implant or device
  • Magnetically activated implant or device
  • Neurostimulation system
  • Spinal cord stimulator
  • Cochlear implant or implanted hearing aid
  • Insulin or infusion pump
  • Implanted drug infusion device
  • Any type of prosthesis or implant
  • Artificial or prosthetic limb
  • Any metallic fragment or foreign body
  • Any external or internal metallic object
  • Hearing aid
  • Body piercing
  • Tattoos

Any metallic substance on your person can affect the quality of the diagnostic images. It can also cause discomfort or even injury to you when placed in the magnetic field.


A board-certified radiologist will study your examination and send the report to your doctor. Then your doctor will discuss the results with you.

Call 678-312-3444 to schedule an appointment at one of our convenient Northside Hospital Gwinnett or Northside Hospital Duluth locations in LawrencevilleDuluth or Hamilton Mill.