1. What is an MRI scan?

An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scanner utilizes a combination of focused magnetic field, radio waves and a computer to produce highly detailed images of any part of the anatomy.

This diagnostic scan provides exceptional contrast between different soft tissues of the body, which makes it highly useful for diagnosing abnormalities of the brain, neck, spine, chest, abdomen, pelvis, as well as musculoskeletal areas (shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip,thigh, knee, calf, ankle, foot).

2. What is the difference between MRI and CT?

Both types of scanners produce 2D and 3D reconstructed images in multiple slices through the body. Ionizing radiation (X-Ray) is utilized to produce the CT images, whereas MRI uses radio frequency (RF) and the patient is not exposed to the hazards of radiation.

3. What kind of equipment does Surrey MRI have?

We use a state-of-the-art 1.5 Tesla Siemens Symphony TIM scanner.

4. What does Tesla mean?

Tesla is a unit measurement of magnetic field strength. The MRI equipment most commonly used in Canadian hospitals and clinics and thorughout the world are 1.5 Tesla.

5. Do I need a referral from my physician?

Under the regulations of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC, all diagnostic tests (whether done in the public or a private setting) require a requisition form from a physician. Surrey MRI is an accredited facility under the Diagnostic Accreditation Program of BC.

The referral is necessary so that your doctor can provide the required information to our Specialists, in order to perform and complete the most appropriate “type” of MRI scan. This is a very important aspect of the procedure.

MRI scans focus in on a particular area of anatomy to obtain the best “detail” of that area. Your doctor will indicate the “area” of examination to be scanned (which could be your lumbar spine, even if you have leg pain). Your physician will also indicate on this form your medical history as well as your symptoms, and what he/she is trying to “rule out”.

When you have a medical problem your doctor will use a variety of diagnostic tests, in order to investigate what is causing your symptoms. It is not unlike detective work, and he/she will gather information from different sources to obtain a diagnosis. Once your referral is received by our office, one of our Radiologists (the medical specialist who will interpret your MRI), will prescribe to the MRI Technologist the protocol (the instructions as to what type of scans to do) and whether or not a contrast (dye) is needed. The required protocol is another very important step for booking your MRI and includes a group of 3-5 minute different scans, each in a particular direction through the anatomy to rule out abnormalities in the tissue.

The referral can be from your family doctor or a specialist.

6. How do I book an appointment?


Step number one: obtain a referral from your physician. The referral can be accessed and downloaded here. Your doctor can fax it to 778-574-1614 or e-mail it to info@surreymri.ca.

Step number two:  Once we receive the referral from your physician, our Radiologist will review it and recommend the necessary scans to be performed. Our staff will call you promptly to ask you some important safety questions and book a convenient appointment time. The procedure will be explained and the necessary information will be provided to prepare you for your MRI scan.

For MRI scans that require a contrast injection, the appointment will be have to be booked when there is a physician on site. For MR arthrograms the contrast is injected into the affected joint by a Radiologist on site, then patient will proceed directly to MR imaging room.

7. What if I need an urgent scan?

Please call our office immediately: 778-574-1610, and we will promptly expedite your request. We will require the doctor’s referral and in most cases we can book you for the same day, if not the following day.

8. What is the Screening/Safety form?


While MRI utilizes non-ionizing technology (no radiation), there are still important safety concerns. Because of the strong magnetic field that is always “on”, it is necessary for every person going into the MRI room to be evaluated and assessed safe to be in the proximity of this magnetic field.

The staff at Surrey MRI are trained to go over a detailed set of medical questions with you prior to your appointment time, to ensure your safety and comfort while undergoing the MRI exam.

Certain medical implants are contraindicated to MRI such as pacemakers, brain aneurysmal clips and neurostimulators. Patients that have done metal work (grinding or welding) or have had a piece of metal go into their eye accidentally, are required to have an orbital (eye) x-ray to rule out metallic foreign body within the eye. Our patient coordinators will arrange for this x-ray to be done prior to the patient’s appointment. At times it may also be necessary to obtain the information (surgical report) about a particular implant, in order for our Technologists and Radiologists to ensure your safety.

The staff at Surrey MRI must do the pre-screening and set up the orbit exams as necessary to ensure your safety during an MRI exam.

9. Does every scan involve a contrast injection?

No, most MRI scans do not require the injection. However, this is determined by our Radiologist once he reviews the referral from your doctor.

The approved contrast used for MRI scans is called Gadolinium. This type of contrast is widely used for a variety of MRI scans in order to enhance the blood flow and provide other information for the Radiologist. Once we receive your doctor’s referral, our Radiologists will review it and determine if an injection will be necessary.


10. What will the cost be for my MRI?

Surrey MRI offers the lowest cost per scan area available with a 1.5 Tesla magnet (magnetic field strength most utilized by hospitals and clinics). Our staff will provide the cost to you once we have received the referral and our Radiologists have reviewed it. The Radiologists will determine what is necessary in order to obtain the proper information for you and your doctor. If an MRI scan is not the best exam for that particular problem, they may even suggest an alternate test that would give more accurate information.

The total cost is then determined by a number of factors:

  • The area and number of areas to be scanned
  • The time involved and the complexity of the exam
  • Whether or not a contrast injection is needed

11. How do I prepare for my MRI appointment?

Routine MRI scans do not require any special preparation. It is very important if you are experiencing alot of pain, and are taking medication, to continue with that medication, as the images will turn out much better if you are comfortable and relaxed. Patients sometimes think that if they take their pain medication, the “problem” will not show up on the scans. In fact, the images will be much clearer and sharper if you are able to lay very still and relaxed. If you develop a cough before your appointment, please call our office to re-schedule, as any images we would otherwise obtain will be degraded if you cough during the scan.

We ask that you do not wear perfume and for brain scans have dry hair and refrain from wearing eye make-up. All body piercings must be removed prior to coming for your appointment.

For examinations of the abdomen and pelvis, we ask that you have nothing to eat or drink for 5 (five) hours prior to your appointment. If you are diabetic, our staff will give you instructions on how to prepare.

Before going into the MRI room, you will be asked to change into a patient gown and to remove all jewellery, hearing aids, and removable dental devices (dentures). We will provide you with a locked area to secure your belongings.

12. What is it like to have an MRI scan?

You will lay on the scanner table and the Technologist will position a piece of equipment around the area to be scanned (it is a light weight antenna that will pick up signals from the area). Because the MRI equipment makes a knocking noise when a scan is running you will be provided with head phones or ear plugs. If you wish, you can listen to the radio, your IPOD, or your favorite CD while being scanned.

You will be given an emergency buzzer that you can activate if you become uncomfortable in any way.  A two-way intercom system is installed between the scanner room and the Technologist room. The Technologist will be continuously communicating with you throughout the exam and can also maintain a visual contact with you through the special window installed between the two rooms.

Before starting the scanning exam, the Technologist will spend a few minutes to make sure that you are very comfortable and slide you into the scanning field.

Once the scans are started, it is important that you do not move out of position, in order for the scan to achieve maximum accuracy. Also, the scans or “sequences” take 3-5 minutes each, and you must lay very still, in order to prevent blurring of the images.

13. How long does an MRI exam take? Is it quick like an x-ray or CT scan?

It takes approximately 30 minutes to do a routine examination of one area. Typically, this includes the preparation time. There will be a “recipe of specific scans” (3-5 minute duration each) to produce all the images.

Exams that require a contrast injection will require 15 to 30 minutes longer than the routine, because scans must be performed before and after the contrast is injected.

14. I am very claustrophobic and very nervous about having the MRI, how will I be able to get through this very important test that I need?

Please do not be embarrassed or afraid to mention this to our staff when going over the safety questions and information with you. They will suggest that you talk to your doctor prior to your appointment so that he/she may prescribe a very mild medication that will help to relax you and take away your nervousness. If you decide to take the medication, you must have a driver to bring you to your appointment and drive you home.

The Technologists at Surrey MRI are very experienced at dealing with patients that are nervous and claustrophobic and will do everything they can to help you get through the test.

For head and neck scans, we can put on a prism mirror in order for you to see out. Some exams will be done with you positioned feet first (pelvis, hip, thigh, knee, calf, ankle, feet) and your head and upper chest will be out of the scanner.

You will have the emergency buzzer available at all times and the Technologist will be in constant communication with you throughout the exam.

15. Who will read my scans and when will I get the results of my MRI?

A Radiologist will read the images carefully and dictate a report that will be sent to your physician within 48 hours of your exam. (The report may take longer depending on complexity of exam). A Radiologist is a medical doctor who is specialized and trained (for four years after medical school) to read MRIs, CT scans, X-Rays.

An MRI exam can produce from 80 images (one area) to 1400 images (Whole Body Screening), and it takes time for the Radiologist to carefully read them and dictate the report.

16. Will my personal privacy and confidentiality be respected and protected?

Yes. Surrey MRI is compliant with all Federal and Provincial privacy regulations. Please ready our Privacy Policy for full details.

17. What are the dimensions of the scanner at Surrey MRI, and is there a weight limitation?

Our scanner will accommodate virtually any individual. The only limitation many MRI scanners experience pertain to the maximum table capacity. Our scanner can accommodate patients up to 300 lbs.

18. Does Surrey MRI offer Whole Body Scans?

Surrey MRI is pleased to offer Comprehensive Regional Scanning rather than Whole Body Scans. Regional screening is faster and less expensive that whole body screening. The images are of higher quality than whole body screening and therefore better diagnostic quality. Whole body screening does not provide answers for the most common lethal cancers and there is no assurance that the person being scanned does not have cancer. Whole body screening MRI sometimes provides people with more questions than answers.

19. What is Comprehensive Regional Scanning?

Comprehensive Regional Screening MRI is for patients who are looking for detailed information about certain parts of their bodies in order to screen for cancer or aneurysms. We offer Brain and Spine, as well as Abdomen, Pelvis (liver, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, adrenal glands, gallbladder and abdominal aorta, lumbar spine, pelvic tissue and reproductive organs). Regional screening is faster and less expensive that whole body screening. The images are of higher quality than whole body screening and therefore better diagnostic quality. Such comprehensive screening could provide early detection of a threatening condition and thus prove invaluable with respect to a patient’s life!

In conclusion, if you have any other questions that we have failed to answer or if you have a specific request, please do not hesitate to call us and we will be happy to help.