What is an MRI?

MRI 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 contrast structures or fluids in the body. This contrast helps physicians see specific structures in your body more clearly.

Our Technology

Northside Hospital uses the most powerful MRI scanner available to patients today. The magnet strength is the key to image clarity. The stronger the magnet, the more precise the image. 

The 3T is incredibly patient-friendly and is designed to make scans easier for obese patients and those who may experience anxiety. 

MRI Services at Northside Hospital include:

Neurological exams of the:

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

Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) exams of the:

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

Musculoskeletal exams of the following:

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

Other exams:

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

Preparing for an MRI Scan

No special preparation is needed before the exam unless your doctor has given you other instructions. You will be asked to complete a safety screening form and answer questions about 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 are 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 are asked to hold very still and relax. In some cases, you are asked to hold your breath for short periods. Any movement, especially your head or back – even moving your jaw to talk – will seriously blur the pictures during the scan. While the machine is taking pictures, you will hear rapidly repeating, thumping noises coming from the scanner walls. For additional comfort, earplugs are provided. The entire exam ordinarily takes around 30 minutes to complete.


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

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

Schedule an Appointment

To schedule an appointment at one of the Northside Hospital Gwinnett or Duluth locations, call 678-312-3444.

To schedule an appointment at a Northside Hospital Atlanta, Forsyth or Cherokee location, call 404-851-6577.