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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an imaging test that uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to take pictures of the inside of your body. Your doctor may recommend an MRI to look for abnormalities or to monitor your body’s response to existing care plans.

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A crystal clear view of your health

Certain atoms in our cells produce signals when they’re in the presence of magnetic fields. MRI machines use those signals to create high-resolution images of your body — from muscles and connective tissue to internal organs and the central nervous system.

Your care team uses those images to discover potential health issues and put you on a recovery path that’s uniquely you.

MRI radiation technologist prepping and helping patient put on headphones before MRI scan at Tufts Medical Center.
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We can use MRI to look for tumors, signs of cancer and other abnormalities on your:

  • Brain
  • Breast
  • Cervical spine
  • Cervix
  • Elbow
  • Knee
  • Liver
  • Lumbar spine
  • Ovaries
  • Pancreas
  • Pelvis
  • Prostate
  • Shoulder
  • Thoracic spine
  • Uterus

The MRI machine allows doctors to see your organs, tissues and bones without the need for surgery. This safe and non-invasive procedure helps doctors diagnose health conditions like the following and monitor your body's response to treatments:

Breast cancer
Cervical cancer
Heart conditions
Kidney cancer
Liver tumors
Musculoskeletal conditions
Neurological diseases
Ovarian cancer
Pancreatic cancer
Prostate cancer
Uterine cancer


The exam itself is a painless and radiation-free procedure. All you have to do is lie back and relax while we work to improve your health. During the procedure, you'll get comfortable on a table that gradually moves through a large, cylindrical machine.

Get in touch with your care team ASAP if you are or think you may be pregnant, or if you have any metallic devices or implants.

Specialty MRI services

Tufts Medicine is home to radiologists with expertise in a wide range of specialties. Our team uses that expertise to offer a variety of specialty MRI services.

Body MRI

The chest, abdomen and pelvis are home to very important organs like the heart, liver and reproductive organs. Body MRIs are used to explore what's happening beneath our skin and to detect the presence of conditions like:

Breast MRI

Whether you're receiving a routine exam, have a family history of breast diseases or have an existing breast condition, a breast MRI offers you an up-to-date picture of your breast health.

Breast MRIs help pinpoint a tumor's location, size and whether it's spread to other parts of the body. While mammograms are still the go-to test for breast cancer screening, we perform breast MRIs for people who have a(n):

  • BRCA1 or BRCA2 breast cancer gene
  • History of chest radiation between ages 10–30
  • Immediate relative (parent, sibling, child) with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation
  • Increased lifetime risk of developing breast cancer
  • Rare genetic disease that increases their risk for breast cancer

We perform breast MRIs at every stage of the care journey. These insightful imaging tools help doctors:

  • Compare scar tissue and a recurrent tumor following breast cancer surgery
  • Evaluate breast implants and the surrounding tissues if there's a medical concern
  • Examine the breasts of a person who's newly diagnosed with breast cancer prior to any surgery
  • Look at abnormalities found during a physical exam, mammography or ultrasound
  • Monitor how effective chemotherapy treatment is for patients with breast cancer
Cardiac MRI

We use cardiac MRIs to diagnose and assess many diseases and conditions, including heart disease.

Musculoskeletal MRI

We use musculoskeletal MRIs to help diagnose and guide treatments for conditions affecting the muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, nerves and cartilage.

Neurological MRI

Our team uses neurological MRIs to diagnose conditions affecting the head, neck, brain and spine.

Pediatric MRI

Did you know we’re Boston’s largest pediatric MRI imaging center in Boston? We work with children every day and perform thousands of imaging exams each year. That experience helps us get the very best images for diagnosing and treating your little one’s condition.

What to expect during an MRI

We know that getting an MRI can be a little intimidating. That's why our imaging technologists are specially trained to help you feel relaxed throughout the procedure. We provide:

  • Comfortable positioning with warm blankets and pillows (depending on scan type)
  • Ongoing communication with the technologist throughout the scan
  • Relaxing music 

Talk with your doctor about possibly having a loved one of friend accompany to your MRI for support.

How to prepare for an MRI

Most MRI exams last 20–40 minutes. There’s not much you need to do to get ready for an MRI. We put together this handy checklist designed to keep you comfortable during your exam.

  • Arrive about 20 minutes early so you have enough time to complete any required paperwork before the exam.
  • You can’t wear any metal during your MRI, so leave all jewelry, metal zippers or any clothing with wiring at home.  
  • Dress warm and comfy. We may ask you to change into a hospital gown. 
  • If you have any metallic devices or implants in your body, such as a pacemaker, artificial heart valve, infusion pump or surgical clips in your skull, let your care team know immediately. 
  • Remove any patch medications or any external mechanical devices unless instructed otherwise by another medical professional.

We may use contrast during your exam, which is a dye that illuminates specific tissues on the scan. We’ll use a small intravenous catheter to inject the contrast.

What to expect during an MRI

At this point, we’ll sound like a broken record and ask you one last time if you have any type of metal in your body or conditions that could interfere with your scan. You can never be too careful. Once we’re given the green light, it’s time to lie down and get comfortable.

It’s very important to lie still and listen for any instructions from the technologist. You’ll hear persistent buzzing and thumping during the scan. This is totally normal as the machine calibrates and snaps photos.

Your technologist will be there the whole time to talk through any of your questions or concerns.

What to expect after an MRI

After your MRI, you’re free to go home or to work. A radiologist will be in touch with you and your physician in a few days to discuss your MRI results and create a treatment path.



Is MRI safe for everyone?

Although an MRI is completely safe and painless, some people shouldn't undergo an MRI or will need to make special arrangements.

Any of the following conditions may interfere with your MRI. Please call us immediately if you are scheduled for an MRI and:

  • Are pregnant, or think you might be
  • Have a cardiac pacemaker
  • Have a prosthetic heart valve
  • Have a surgical clip, bone or joint replacement, or any metallic implant
  • Have any metallic chips or splinters in the eye
  • Have ever held a job in a metal-working industry or have been exposed to metallic dust or splinters
  • Have suffered a shrapnel wound
  • Suffer from claustrophobia
  • Weigh more than 300 pounds
Does an MRI have radiation?

No, an MRI doesn’t expose patients to radioactive materials, X-rays or any form of ionizing radiation. There isn’t any evidence that MRIs lead to harmful side effects.

What if I'm claustrophobic and need an MRI?

If you're prone to claustrophobia or panic attacks or are in any way concerned about how you could react during the scanning procedure, talk to your doctor about medication options and choose the least confining MRI option for your scan.  

Our imaging technologists assist patients with claustrophobia every day and are specially trained to help keep patients relaxed. We provide:

  • An open line of communication with the technologist throughout the scan
  • Comfortable positioning with warm blankets and pillows (depending on scan type)
  • Noise-canceling headphones with satellite radio or your choice of relaxing music
  • The option to have a family member or friend with you for support
Why do MRI machines make loud noises?

MRI machines are known for being noisy. This is because of the force required to create an electromagnetic field on a coiled wire. When the MRI is creating an image, it makes a rapid-fire clicking noise. That’s just because the electric current is switching on and off rapidly.

CT Scan Technologists, Almir Bulic and Jan Stone reviewing a CT scan on a computer screen.
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Stepahine Driver and  Evan Kyranos, both MRI Technologists, looking over and setting up MRI machine at MelroseWakefield Hospital.
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