MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging, uses a combination of a very powerful magnetic field (10,000 times stronger than that of the earth) and pulses of radiofrequency energy to produce detailed images of soft tissues.

The radiologists working in the Kent and Sussex Radiology Group have vast experience of MR imaging, using a state of the art 3 Tesla scanner installed at the Tunbridge Wells Hospital at Pembury. MRI is also available at the Nuffield Hospital in Tunbridge Wells and the Spire Hospital at Fordcombe. Second opinions can also be requested for MR scans performed elsewhere.

We have close links with local orthopaedic surgeons, local physicians and local surgeons, enabling us to offer high quality opinions specifically tailored to the patient’s clinical problems.

You will be asked to lie still on a sliding couch that will take you through into a large cylinder. The length of the study varies from about 20 minutes up to 1 hour.

During the scan you may hear loud noises which is why you will be given headphones or ear plugs. The radiographer will be controlling the scan from the next room and will be able to hear you and see you if you have any problems.

Some people can feel claustrophobic however the radiographer will be on hand to reassure you if you feel anxious. Some are prescribed a sedative beforehand, this is usually worth discussing with the doctor organising your scan.

You may be asked to hold your breath a number of times, which is important for obtaining good quality images for the radiologist to interpret. It is important to lie as still as possible during the study, to avoid any artefact on your scan images.

Routine studies

MRI is typically considered the best tool for assessing the brain, liver, spine and joints.

Specialist studies

MRI is used for detailed assessment of both the male and female pelvis and is key to the management and diagnosis of common cancers e.g. prostate, rectal and ovarian cancer. Our state of the art scanners are now able to accurately assess the small bowel (MR enterography) and the perianal region particularly in people with Crohn’s Disease. We now use MRI in the assessment of some women for breast cancer and the use of Cardiac MRI to assess heart conditions is increasing.

Unlike CT there is no radiation exposure and no known serious side effects are associated with short exposures to a high magnetic field. Therefore MRI is often a useful tool in imaging children and young people. Some metallic implants however, can be damaged by MRI and there are a small number of patients in whom it is not safe to perform MRI.