The MRI scanner is safe

You probably already suspect that MRI scanners are very safe. After all, hundreds of thousands of MRI scans are done every day in the world. However, to help reduce anxiety, it may be useful here to understand how MRI scanners are safe.

Magnetic field

While an MRI scanner may not look safe to you, it is one of the safest ways in the medical field of getting images. The basic technology, as is hinted in its name (magnetic resonance imaging, MRI) is that it uses magnetism to generate images (there are more complicated aspects, but that will be too difficult to explain here). You are exposed to magnetism all the time, as the Earth is one giant magnet.

The magnetic field used by the MRI scanner is much stronger than the magnetism Earth passes through you, but it is just a harmless magnetic field nevertheless.

Short tunnel

The MRI scanner has a short tunnel, and the part of the body being scanned needs to be in this tunnel. This is a common reason for not liking MRI scans. However, one’s mind can make the tunnel appear worse than it actually is. Here are some aspects of it that can help you to worry less about it.

The short tunnel is not a closed chamber! Rather, it is open at both ends, and one end of your body will always be near one of the ends, or even out of one end.

The tunnel has good lighting.

The MRI scanner is designed to keep lots of air flowing inside the tunnel to keep one comfortable.

The scanner may also have a small mirror that lets you see the end of the short tunnel. They may even project some nice images on the wall, which you can see with the mirror.

Always remember that when you are in the MRI scanner tunnel, you are always in contact with the MRI healthcare professional. You will be given a call bell (usually a little ball that you can squeeze, and this alerts the operator). Furthermore, the MRI operator sits not too far from you and can see you directly from the controls. So when in the short tunnel, don’t think you are alone on some distant planet, rather you are near the MRI staff. The staff working in MRI are highly qualified and have a lot of experience in managing patients like you.

The most important thing to always remember is that you are in final control of being in the MRI scanner. One basic principle in the medical field is that one does not do things against a patient’s wishes, and that includes being in the MRI scanner. If you want to stop the scanning, the staff will respect your wishes and you will be out of the scanner. I am sure you will aim to complete your MRI scan, but it will be reassuring to remind yourself that you are in control and can stop the scanning process.


MRI scanners produce strange sounds which can be somewhat loud. As mentioned before, the MRI uses magnetic fields to image your body. To get the images, it has to keep changing the magnetic field in very sophisticated ways, and this makes the scanner gently vibrate. It’s almost like how a musical instrument vibrates when its strings are plucked. There are a lot of people who, after a while, find the strange noises fascinating and even soothing. The sounds vary a lot in very interesting patterns so try to think of the MRI scanner as a giant musical instrument!

The sounds that the MRI scanner produces are loud. You will be given a pair of headphones/earplugs to wear when in the scanner. This will reduce the loudness of the sounds considerably and let you communicate with the person controlling the MRI scanner. Through the headphones, they can also play music, and it may even be possible to play music that you bring on the day.

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