This information will help you prepare for a brain lab magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK). For the rest of this resource, the words “you” and “your” refer to you or your child.
About Your Brain Lab MRI
An MRI is a test that uses magnetic fields to produce pictures of the inside of the body. It can be used to see the type, size, and location of tumors.
For people with a brain tumor, a brain lab MRI is used to look at the brain. Your doctor will use the detailed pictures from your brain lab MRI to plan your surgery. The MRI scan will take about 1 hour.Back to top
Before Your Brain Lab MRI
- If you have a programmable ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt, it’s important that you know the shunt type and setting before your MRI. If you don’t know, ask the doctor who placed your VP shunt. If you don’t have this information before your MRI, you may not be able to have it that day.
- If you wear a medication patch on your skin, you may need to take it off before your MRI. This is because metal in the patch may heat up during your MRI and cause burns. Make sure you have an extra medication patch with you to put on after your MRI. Please check with your doctor or nurse.
- If you’re a female between the ages of 11 and 55, your doctor or nurse will ask you if you are pregnant. You may have to take a pregnancy test.
You may need to have contrast dye, also called “contrast,” during your MRI. Your doctor or nurse will tell you if you’re going to have an MRI with contrast.
Contrast is a special dye that makes it easier for your doctor to see differences in tumors. This will help us to get a clearer picture. For a brain lab MRI with contrast, you’ll get the contrast through an intravenous (IV) line in your hand or arm or a needle in your central line or implanted port (Mediport®).
Reactions to the contrast dye are rare. However, if you’ve had a reaction to contrast in the past, tell your doctor or nurse.
A staff member will call you 1 day before your MRI. They will tell you what time you should arrive for your MRI. If you’re having your brain lab MRI on a Monday, you will be called on the Friday before. If you don’t receive a call by 4:00 pm, please call 212-639-5948.
Your brain lab MRI will be at one of the following locations:
- Center for Image-Guided Intervention (CIGI)
C elevator to 2nd floor
- Pediatric Day Hospital (PDH)
B elevator to the 9th floor
Both locations are at 1275 York Avenue (between East 67th and East 68th Streets).
For People Receiving Anesthesia
If your doctor told you that you would receive anesthesia (medication to make you sleepy) during your MRI, you must follow the additional instructions below.
You must have someone 18 years or older take you home after your MRI. If you don’t have anyone, tell your nurse. They will give you more information.
If you do not follow the instructions you are given, your brain lab MRI may be cancelled.
Write down your instructions here:
The Day of Your Brain Lab MRI
- Unless you’re told otherwise, you can shower and wash your hair the morning of your MRI. Don’t use any products such as hair spray or hair gel.
- Don’t wear any metal objects. Remove all jewelry, including body piercings.
- Leave valuables, such as credit cards, jewelry, or your checkbook, at home.
- An extra medication patch, if you wear one
- A case for your glasses, if you wear them
When you first enter the MRI suite, you will fill out a questionnaire about any medical implants or devices you have. You will place your clothes, credit cards, and any objects (such as your phone, jewelry, coins, and glasses) in a locker. This is because objects with even a small amount of metal can fly into the magnet, and the magnet can damage mobile phones and credit cards.
You may need to change into a hospital gown before going into the scanning area.
If you’re getting contrast during your brain lab MRI, the MRI technologist (the person in charge of doing your brain lab MRI) will place the IV line or put a needle in your central line or implanted port.
The MRI technologist may also put small circular markers called “fiducials” on your scalp, forehead, and behind your ears (see Figure 1). These markers will give your doctor a better view of your brain, and will stay in place until your surgery. The technologist may draw a circle around each fiducial marker so they can be easily replaced if they fall off.
Not everyone will get fiducial markers. If you’re not sure if you will be getting fiducial markers, ask your nurse practitioner.
The MRI technologist will bring you to the scanning room and help you onto the MRI table. The MRI machine is a large, donut-shaped magnet. It makes a loud tapping noise during the scan. The technologist will offer you earplugs or earphones to listen to music.
Once you’re comfortable on the MRI table, the technologist will slide it into the magnetic part of the machine and begin the scan. The scan will take about 1 hour. You will be able to speak with the technologist during the entire scan.
It’s important to lie still and breathe normally during the scan. The scan doesn’t hurt, but some people have a hard time lying still on the MRI table. If you’re having trouble lying still, tell the MRI technologist.Back to top
After Your Brain Lab MRI
- When your brain lab MRI is finished, the MRI technologist will move the scanning table out of the machine and help you off the table. After you get your belongings, you can leave the MRI area.
- If you received anesthesia, you will be taken to the pediatric recovery room in the PDH. You will stay there until you’re fully awake.
- There are no restrictions after your brain lab MRI, and no special care is needed.
- Your doctor will get a report with the results of your MRI.
If you got fidicual markers before your brain lab MRI, they will stay in place until your surgery. Try not to get them wet, as this can make them fall off. However, if they do fall off, they can easily be replaced before your surgery.Back to top