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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses magnetic fields and radio frequencies to create a three-dimensional picture of structures inside the body. An MRI can diagnose diseases of the brain, spine, skeleton, abdomen, and pelvis. An MRI image is more detailed than an X-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan.
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1. What to expect

The technologist will ask you to lie still on the table. Once you lie down, the automated table will move you slowly through the tunnel while the machine takes pictures. One pass through the tunnel results in multiple pictures of the area that is being scanned.
Patient in an MRI machine.
Getting an MRI scan.

Contrast media (a dye to increase visual contrast) may be required for your exam. Contrast media will either be provided orally or inserted through an intravenous tube (IV) in your hand or arm.

An MRI machine has a slightly longer patient tunnel than a CT machine. Patients lie inside a large cylinder while the machine produces a scan. An MRI machine makes a banging noise while it is working.

MRI exams usually take 30 minutes to one hour, though some more complex exams can take up to two hours. Infants and small children usually require a general anesthetic in order to hold still long enough to have this examination.

Ensure that your exam is the most appropriate test to investigate your condition. Your care provider has access to published guidelines that suggest which type of test is most appropriate for your condition. Talk with your care provider to ensure the test that is ordered for you is the most appropriate for your condition.

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2. How to prepare

  • If for some reason you cannot make your appointment, inform the hospital medical imaging or radiology department as soon as possible. 
  • Bring your health card with you.
  • Do not wear jewellery or any other metal objects since you will be exposed to a powerful magnetic field during the MRI scan.
  • Tell medical staff if you have a hearing aid or pacemaker, or any metal inside the body such as surgical clips. Special precautions are taken before performing an MRI scan because of the strong magnetic field. Many orthopedic metalware such as artificial hips or bone screws are not normally a problem. MRI scans will not be performed for patients with pacemakers, blood vessel clips, implanted pumps, metal in the eyes or sockets, hearing implants, artificial limbs, or other implanted metal devices unless proper documentation of the device is provided and the device has been identified as MRI compatible. In very rare circumstances where the physician has determined that benefits of the scan outweigh the risk, an MRI may be performed, but the decision to perform the scan rests within the clinical judgement of the physician.
  • If you have a sensitivity to iodine and contrast media is needed for your exam, talk to your physician and the MRI technician.
  • Inform your physician if you are or think you may be pregnant.
  • If you are claustrophobic, you should tell your physician in advance; they may provide advice or medication to help you relax. Also mention it to your MRI technician.
  • If the patient is an infant or small child, a general anesthetic may be needed in order to keep their body still long enough to have this examination.
  • Follow the instructions given to you by the department where you will have your exam. For example, Saskatoon advises not to eat or drink for six hours before an MRI exam of the upper abdomen, including liver, pancreas, biliary system-MRCP, gall bladder, etc.
  • Arrive at the hospital admitting department 30 minutes before your exam.
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3. Service locations

There are seven MRI scanners in five Saskatchewan hospitals. In Regina, a private imaging supplier is contracted to supplement hospital-based MRI services. Patients in Lloydminster benefit from a contract between the Saskatchewan Health Authority, Alberta Health Services, and Lloydminster Medical Imaging, where they can receive MRI services at the community-based scanner. The newest MRI suite in a hospital began service in January 2016 in the new Dr. F.H. Wigmore Regional Hospital in Moose Jaw.

Location Imaging Dept. Phone
Moose Jaw
 - Dr. F.H. Wigmore Regional Hospital
306-694-0381
Lloydminster Hospital
306-820-6000
Regina General Hospital (2)
306-766-3904
Saskatoon
 - Royal University Hospital (2)
 - Saskatoon City Hospital
 - St. Paul's Hospital
306-655-2412
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4. Risks

Since radiation is not used during an MRI exam, the procedure can be repeated without increased radiation exposure.  
Tell your doctor/nurse practitioner if:
  • You are or think you may be pregnant. 
  • There may be a risk to a fetus in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, so scans are not performed on pregnant women during this time.
  • The patient is an infant or small child.
  • There are risks related to the use of general anesthetic, which is often used to enable an infant or small child to be scanned during the lengthy MRI process. Discuss with your care provider, so you understand the benefits of proceeding with an MRI and weigh those against the risk to your child of undergoing general anesthetic.
  • You have implants with metal in them. Special precautions are taken before performing an MRI scan because of the strong magnetic field. Many orthopedic metalware such as artificial hips or bone screws are not normally a problem. MRI scans will not be performed for patients with pacemakers, blood vessel clips, implanted pumps, metal in the eyes or sockets, hearing implants, artificial limbs, or other implanted metal devices unless proper documentation of the device is provided and the device has been identified as MRI compatible. In very rare circumstances where the physician has determined that benefits of the scan outweigh the risk, an MRI may be performed, but the decision to perform the scan rests within the clinical judgement of the physician.
  • You work around metal, or recently had blood vessel surgery. There may be risks that should be explored and discussed.
  • You have a sensitivity to iodine. Contrast media (x-ray dye) may be required for your exam. Oral and injected contrast media contain iodine, so if you have a sensitivity to iodine there is a possibility of an allergic reaction.
You should talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have. If the issue hasn’t been resolved by the time you are ready for your MRI, talk to the hospital imaging department. 

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5. Wait times

Find out the wait times patients have recently experienced, and information about wait time targets in Saskatchewan: Medical Imaging Wait Times.

As a patient, you should discuss with your physician if you are concerned about the length of your wait time or if there are any changes to your condition, and ask that your ordering physician consult with a radiologist. The ultimate responsibility for prioritization rests with the attending radiologist, after consultation with the referring physician.

Explore options for a shorter wait
Wait times are affected by factors such as a hospital’s capacity to provide scans and the local level of demand for services. 

If you are waiting for an MRI exam and are willing and able to travel, ask your physician about the possibly of having your scan done sooner in another facility.

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6. Private-pay MRI Services

Patients have the option to choose to directly pay a private facility for a MRI scan in Saskatchewan. Private facilities that conduct a private MRI scan must also provide a second scan at no charge to an individual who is waiting on the public list.

The process

A physician referral is required to obtain an MRI, to ensure all MRIs conducted in Saskatchewan are medically necessary. If you have already been referred for an MRI scan and are interested in completing a private MRI scan, contact your ordering physician or a licensed MRI facility to determine if this is a viable option for you and to have your referral redirected to a licensed MRI facility.

If your physician determines that you need an MRI scan and you are interested in completing a private MRI scan, talk to your ordering physician. Once a referral from an appropriate physician is obtained, a person wishing to pay for an MRI will take that referral directly to a licensed private facility to book an appointment, or have their ordering physician send the referral on their behalf. Only specially-trained physicians with appropriate privileges in the area where they practice may order an MRI in Saskatchewan.

After completing a private MRI scan, the private facility will provide a scan of similar complexity to a patient on the public list, at no charge to that second patient. Using a list of names provided by health providers, the private facility will contact the first individual waiting on the public list, offering two opportunities to receive the scan within 14 days. If that person is not available, the facility will move to the next patient on the list. Within seven days of providing the second scan, the MRI facility will notify the health region that the service has been completed, to assist with keeping the public list up to date.

As this is a private service, government will not set the price of a private MRI scan. Each private facility will set its own price based on factors that include complexity of scan, market demand and its own business model. Any patient who chooses to pay for MRI services offered by a private facility will not be eligible for cost coverage or reimbursement from the provincial government.

Licensed private-pay MRI facilities

Mayfair Diagnostics Regina  Open Skies MRI Diagnostics 
135 - 1621 Albert Street
Regina, SK S4P 2S5
Phone: 306-569-9729
2727 Parliament Avenue
Regina, SK S4S 6X5
Phone: 306-352-6736
Fax: 306-586-4674
  • Please contact a licensed facility directly for information about services.
  • You must have a referral from your specially-trained physician with appropriate privileges in the area where they practice.
  • Cost of an MRI exam will be dependent upon the type of MRI exam that your doctor has ordered and is not eligible for reimbursement by the Ministry of Health. 

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