What You Need To Know Before Getting a Prostate MRI

Published: Wednesday, September 15, 2021
Angel B. Whitaker, RT, MR, CT
Imaging Manager, NGHS

Did you know? 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Interestingly, many prostate cancer cases grow quickly but spread slowly, often going by unnoticed.

What is an MRI?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a test used to diagnose certain medical conditions.

MRI uses a powerful magnetic field, radio waves and a computer to produce images of body structures. MRI does not use any ionizing radiation like x-ray or CT scans.

Detailed MRI images allow the radiologist to examine the body and detect disease. The radiologist “reads” the exam and sends a detailed report to your referring physician.

What are some common uses of Prostate MRI?

Your doctor uses MRI to evaluate prostate cancer and see if it is limited to the prostate. MRI provides information on how water molecules and blood flow through the prostate. This helps determine whether cancer is present and, if so, whether it is aggressive and if it has spread.

Sometimes, MRI of the prostate is needed to evaluate other prostate issues, including:

  • infection or abscess.
  • an enlarged prostate (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia)
  • congenital abnormalities (abnormalities present at birth)
  • complications after pelvic surgery

MRI can tell the difference between diseased tissue and normal tissue better than x-ray, CT and ultrasound.

How should I prepare?

  1. You may need to change into a hospital gown. Or, you may be allowed to wear your own clothing if it is loose-fitting and has no metal fasteners.
  2. You will be given a bowel prep regimen to complete prior to your test. The prostate is very close to the rectum, so it is important that there is no stool or gas in your colon during the test. Please refrain from eating 4 hours prior to your test. You can drink liquids up to the time of your test.
  3. You will be asked to urinate prior to your test so that your bladder is as empty as possible.

The Night Before:

Avoid caffeine for 24 hours prior to the MRI. Do not have sexual relations 48 hours prior to your test. Sometimes, your physician would like you to wait 6 weeks after having a prostate biopsy to have a prostate MRI, this will ensure that the images are very clear.

Communicate with your technologist!

  • Sometimes, an injection of MRI contrast (gadolinium) through a vein is needed for your test. The contrast is ordered by your physician to help see certain diseases better. If you have ever had an allergic reaction to MRI contrast (gadolinium) please inform your technologist. It is rare, but as with any medication, you can have an allergic reaction to contrast.
  • Tell the technologist if you have medical or electronic implants in your body. These devices may interfere with the exam or be a risk to the patient. Many implants will have a card explaining the MRI risks for that specific device. If you have the card for your implant, bring it to the attention of the technologist prior to your test. MRI cannot be performed without documentation of the type of implant and MRI compatibility.

How long does an MRI take?
The MRI takes around 45 minutes. Please be aware that you must hold still for the exam. Any motion causes the images to be blurry, which can reduce the detail of the images. If you have severe pain, you may want to discuss with your doctor about taking pain medication prior to the test so that you can hold still for the MRI. If you are claustrophobic or do not like smaller spaces, you may want to discuss with your doctor medication to help relax you during the MRI.

What does the equipment look like?

The traditional MRI unit is a large cylinder-shaped tube surrounded by a circular magnet. The scanners are open on both ends so you are never completely enclosed in anything during the test. You will lie on a table that slides into the center of the magnet. The machine will make a loud noise during your test. You must wear hearing protection that will be provided to you for the test.

What are the benefits of having an MRI at an Imaging Center of NGMC

  • MRI is a noninvasive imaging technique that does not use ionizing radiation.
  • MR images of soft-tissue structures are clearer and more detailed than those of other imaging methods.
  • MRI a valuable tool in early diagnosis and evaluation of the extent of tumors, such as prostate cancer.
  • MRI is valuable in diagnosing many conditions, including cancer. It is also useful in diagnosing non-cancerous conditions such as an enlarged prostate and infection.
  • MRI helps distinguish between low-risk/slow-growing and high-risk/aggressive prostate cancers. It also helps determine if cancer has spread to other areas.
  • MRI can detect abnormalities that might be obscured using other imaging methods.
  • The MRI contrast (gadolinium) is less likely to cause an allergic reaction than the iodinated contrast used for x-rays and CT scans.
  • Your kidney function may be tested prior to the exam. This ensures that your kidneys are functioning adequately to filter out the MRI contrast. Our facilities use the level of MRI contrast that is the safest for your kidneys.

Have questions?

Talk to your primary provider with any questions or concerns, or call one of our technologists at 770-219-7666 for more information.