Your doctor has arranged for you to have an MRI scan at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre and this leaflet will explain the following:

  • What is an MRI scanner?
  • Why do I need an MRI scan?
  • Are there any risks?
  • What is the preparation for an MRI scan?
  • What will happen during the scan?
  • When will I get the results?
  • How do we share your images?

Urgent alert

Please contact Radiology on 0151 556 5052 before your scan: 

  • If you have a pacemaker or cardiac implant
  • If you have ever had a metal injury to your eye(s)
  • If you have a syringe driver
  • If you have had surgery in the last six weeks
  • If you have a hydrocephalus shunt
  • If you are or think you might be pregnant or are breastfeeding
  • If you weigh more than 250kg (39 stone)

An MRI scanner is a tunnel-shaped machine about five feet long, open at both ends. You will lie on a couch that slides into the scanner. It uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves together with an advanced computer system to build up a series of images, each one showing a thin slice of the area being examined. 

The radiographers who perform your scan are highly experienced, trained professionals who specialise in MRI.

Person lying on MRI scanner table. There is a large ring-shaped machine behind him – this is the MRI scanner that will scan his bodyAn MRI scan helps your doctor to assess your condition. Compared to x-rays, ultrasound or Computed Tomography (CT) scanning, MRI can show some parts of the body and certain diseases more clearly.


As far as is known, this is an extremely safe procedure. It does not involve the use of x-rays. However, since the scanner uses a powerful magnetic field, it is important that the radiographers are aware of any metal within your body from operations or injuries.

Please refer to your appointment letter for advice on when to telephone the department before your appointment if you think there may be a reason why you cannot have an MRI scan.

Before carrying out the scan, it is very important that we know if you are breastfeeding or are (or think you may be) pregnant. If this is the case, please contact us in advance as it may be necessary to delay your appointment.

Urgent alert

If you are coming for a brain scan, you should not drive to your appointment. Your doctor may have already advised you of this.

Unless you are told otherwise, you may take medicines and eat and drink as normal on the day of your scan.

Some people occasionally find the scanner makes them feel claustrophobic. If you think this may happen to you, please telephone the department for advice as soon as you receive your appointment. 

You may bring a friend or relative with you. Under certain circumstances, they may sit with you during the scan. However, this may change owing to COVID-19 restrictions. Please check the website for the latest information and guidance.

You may bring a CD to listen to during the scan. Otherwise we can offer a choice of digital radio stations. However, this may not be possible with some types of scan.

On arrival, a member of staff will complete a safety checklist with you.

You may be asked to change into a hospital gown. You will be asked to remove any jewellery (except your wedding ring), cash, keys, credit cards and watches etc. They will need to remain outside of the scan room. Lockers are available. 

If you wear a hearing aid or metal denture, you will be asked to remove these just before you enter the scanner room. This is because anything containing metal may interfere with the magnetic field of the MRI scanner.

The radiographer will explain what is happening at all times. 

You will be taken into the scanner room and made comfortable lying on the couch. A special ‘receiving device’, which acts like an aerial, is placed on, under or around the area being imaged. This detects the tiny radio signals emitted from your body during the scans. 

During scanning, there is a loud knocking noise so you will be given earplugs to wear and headphones when possible. 

You will be given a call buzzer to hold. This can be used should you need to speak to the radiographer during the scan.
When you are comfortable, the couch moves so you are lying within the scanner. Patients normally remain comfortable during the scan and sometimes even fall asleep briefly! 

Radiographer in burgundy scrubs observing patient on scanner next door through a glass screen. She is also looking at MRI images from the scanThe radiographer will be watching you all the time from the control room next to the scanner. You will be able to talk to them through the intercom. If you feel uncomfortable or worried at any time, do mention it immediately to the radiographer. 

For some body areas, an injection of a fluid (‘contrast agent’) is required. This helps produce more detailed imaging. It is given through a small needle (‘cannula’) into a vein in the arm. This cannula will remain in your arm for a minimum of 15 minutes after administration of the contrast agent. You will then be advised to remain within the hospital grounds for a further 15 minutes. More information will be given at the time of your scan. 

The length of time you are in the scanner varies depending on the body area being imaged. A brain scan may take 30 minutes, a spine scan 40 minutes and some scans can take up to an hour. 

There are usually no side-effects from the scan. Afterwards, unless advised otherwise, you may drive home, eat and drink as normal, and return to work as necessary. 

If you have had an injection during the scan, it is a good idea to drink plenty of water over the next few hours to flush the fluid out of your system.

After you leave the department, our specialist doctor (a radiologist) will examine the images and write a report. This report is sent to your consultant normally within 7 to 10 days. If your next outpatient appointment is sooner than this, please let the radiographer know so the report can be made available for that date.

Patient information and images are used for support with patient care with other Trusts. These are anonymised if used for training, teaching and research purposes within the Trust.

If you would prefer not to have your data used for these purposes, please notify the Radiographer carrying out your examination.

This will not have a detrimental impact on the level of care you are given.

If you have any questions, please contact the MRI department on 0151 556 5036.

Please note, we are unable to provide supervision for dependants (e.g. children).

Please note, we scan patients who have been referred for investigation of a range of conditions, not only for cancer. 

If appropriate, however, for general information you can contact the Cancer Information and Support team:

Find more information about MRI scans from Macmillan Cancer Support