Why did my healthcare provider order a brain MRI for my head injury?

June 24, 2024 – 8 min read

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Man and woman exploring and hiking along a mountain trail.

If you have a head injury, you should seek immediate medical attention, or call 9-1-1.

A head injury is a serious medical condition that can have serious impacts on your health and well being. 

That’s why your healthcare provider recommended that you get a brain MRI, which is a scan that can create highly detailed images of your brain and related areas, and helps your provider diagnose your injury.

We’ll look at why your provider may have ordered a brain MRI scan for your head injury, at what happens during a brain MRI, and at what you can expect afterward.

Let’s take a closer look at what you can expect before and after a brain MRI scan.

What specific brain conditions can a brain MRI detect after a head injury?

A brain MRI is a powerful diagnostic tool that can identify a variety of conditions resulting from a head injury. 

It is especially effective in detecting traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), such as concussions, contusions (bruises on the brain), and brain bleeds. Additionally, a brain MRI can reveal more subtle injuries (like diffuse axonal injury), where damage occurs to the brain’s connecting fibers.

The detailed images provided by a brain MRI can also detect abnormalities that might not be visible with other imaging methods. 

This includes detecting swelling, brain herniation, or any changes in brain tissue that could indicate the presence of an injury.

How does a brain MRI help show the severity and impact of a head injury?

A brain MRI helps accurately assess the severity and impact of a head injury by providing high-resolution images of the brain’s structures, which allows healthcare providers to pinpoint the exact location and extent of the injury. 

For instance, if there is a hematoma (a collection of blood outside of blood vessels), the MRI will show its size and exact position, which is crucial for determining the appropriate treatment.

Also, an MRI can reveal how the injury has affected the brain’s function, including whether there is any pressure on the brain or if there are areas where the brain tissue has been damaged. 

All of this information is vital for understanding the potential long-term impacts of the injury, and for planning the necessary interventions to mitigate these effects.

In what ways does a brain MRI guide my treatment options?

Depending on what the MRI reveals, your healthcare provider can tailor a treatment plan that addresses the specific issues identified. 

In cases where the MRI detects less severe injuries, such as minor concussions, the treatment plan might focus on rest, monitoring symptoms, and gradually returning to normal activities. 

The detailed information from a brain MRI helps your provider decide on the best course of action, whether it involves medication, therapy, or other supportive measures. This personalized approach ensures that you receive the most effective care for your specific condition.

What to expect from your brain MRI scan

To get the most accurate MRI results possible, we’d recommend paying close attention to your provider’s instructions, since everyone’s scan is unique to their needs. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind before and during your upcoming brain MRI scan.

What should I do to prepare for a brain MRI? What should I avoid?

Keep in mind that metal can interfere with your MRI scan results. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider if you have any metal implants, pacemakers, or metal fragments in your body.

Also, let your provider know if you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant, as this could affect their decision to proceed with a brain MRI scan.

On the day of your MRI, wear comfortable clothing without any metal components like zippers or buttons, as these can interfere with the imaging. Avoid wearing jewelry, watches, or any accessories that contain metal. 

It’s also a good idea to remove any makeup, as some cosmetics contain metal particles that can affect the accuracy of MRI images.

Technologist preparing patient for MRI scan.

What happens during a brain MRI scan?

During a brain MRI, you will lie on a table that slides into the MRI machine, which is shaped like a large tube. 

The technologist will position your head comfortably and may use cushions or a headrest to keep you still. Staying still is crucial for getting clear images, so the technologist will ensure you are as comfortable as possible before starting the scan.

Once the scan begins, you will hear a series of loud noises, including thumping and tapping sounds––these noises are completely normal. You may be given earplugs or headphones to help muffle the sound. 

You’ll be able to hear and speak to your technologist during the scan, so if you need anything, please don’t hesitate to ask.

How long does a brain MRI take?

A brain MRI typically takes from 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the specifics of what is being examined. More detailed scans that require multiple angles or high-resolution images might take longer. 

The entire visit for your brain MRI, including preparation and the scan itself, usually takes about an hour to an hour and a half. That will give you enough time to check in, get ready for your scan, and have your brain MRI.

What happens after your brain MRI

Once your MRI is complete, your results take about a week to process and interpret, before we send them to your healthcare provider. 

During an appointment with your provider, they’ll tell you all about your results, and any next steps. Let’s take a look at what to expect after a brain MRI.

How are the results of my brain MRI interpreted?

After your brain MRI, the images will be reviewed by a radiologist, a doctor who specializes in interpreting medical images. 

The radiologist will carefully examine the detailed images of your brain to identify any abnormalities or signs of injury. They will look for things like bleeding, swelling, bruising, or damage that might have occurred due to your head injury.

Once the radiologist has reviewed the images, they will create a detailed report summarizing their findings. This report will be sent to your healthcare provider, who will use the information to better understand your condition. 

What will my MRI results tell my healthcare provider about my condition?

Your brain MRI results will help your provider identify a traumatic brain injury, like a concussion or a contusion, as well as any bleeding, swelling, or changes in brain tissue.

The MRI results can also help monitor the progress of your recovery, and show any potential complications early, so your provider can make an informed decision about how to respond.

How should I discuss my results with my provider? What questions should I ask?

It’s important to have an open and honest conversation to fully understand your condition and the next steps. Here are some questions you might consider asking:

  • What did the MRI show you about my head injury?
  • Do you have any areas of concern?
  • How severe is my injury, and what does it mean for my recovery?
  • What treatment options are available based on my MRI results?
  • Are there any lifestyle changes I should make to help my recovery?

Your provider’s answers will give a better understanding of your condition, and what to expect, moving forward. They will be able to explain the findings in detail, discuss any concerns you have, and help you make informed decisions about your health.

How to schedule your MRI appointment with us

Touchstone Medical Imaging offers MRI scans in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Oklahoma, and Texas. 

Reach out to us at Touchstone, and we’ll help you schedule an MRI appointment at an imaging center near you, today.

We’re here to help you get the answers you need.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

A brain MRI can detect conditions like traumatic brain injuries, concussions, contusions, brain bleeds, swelling, brain herniation, and changes in brain tissue.

A brain MRI provides high-resolution images that allow healthcare providers to pinpoint the exact location and extent of the injury, revealing details like hematomas, brain tissue damage, and pressure on the brain.

The detailed information from a brain MRI helps your provider tailor a treatment plan specific to the identified issues, whether it involves medication, therapy, or other supportive measures.

To prepare for a brain MRI, avoid metal objects, inform your provider about any metal implants or pregnancy, and wear comfortable clothing without metal components.

During a brain MRI, you will lie on a table that slides into the MRI machine, and you need to stay still while the machine takes images.

A brain MRI typically takes 30 to 60 minutes, with the entire visit including preparation usually lasting about an hour to an hour and a half.

A radiologist will review the MRI images to identify any abnormalities or signs of injury and create a detailed report for your healthcare provider.

The MRI results will help your provider identify injuries such as concussions, contusions, bleeding, swelling, and changes in brain tissue, and monitor recovery progress.