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What is Magnetic Resonance Imaging?

MRI scan of the knee

If you are interested in learning about MRI body scans and the MRI scanner, and the uses of MRI body scans, you will find the information on this page helpful.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a a method of examining body organs through the use of magnetic fields rather than X rays, and using a computer to construct a series of body scans. An MRI scan is particularly useful for producing pictures of the brain (brain MRI) and spine, as well as the soft tissues of joints and the interior structure of bones.


During MRI scans you lie still and are moved in and out of a narrow tube as the MRI scanner creates images of your body. If you're claustrophobic, being confined within an MRI scanner for up to an hour can be difficult. The latest facilities now use an "open" MRI scanner to avoid this problem. MRI scans do not rely on possibly harmful radiation such as X Rays, and CT scans. There are no known risks for an MRI scan, other than for people who may have metal objects in their bodies.


Sometimes sedatives are given to help the patient relax during MRI scans. If a sedative is used, the patient will be unable to drive home following the MRI scan and should have a friend or family member with him or her. MRI scans usually take between 1 and 2 hours to carry out.


MRI scanners can be used to accurately detect and locate tumours and to determine if a tumour has spread. MRI scans are often used to examine:

  • Nervous system (e.g., brain MRI, spinal cord, nerves)
  • Chest (e.g., heart, cardiac MRI, lungs, major blood vessels)
  • Spinal column
  • Abdomen (e.g., liver, kidneys, spleen)
  • Joints (e.g., shoulders, hips, knees)
  • Pelvis (e.g., reproductive organs)


To locate providers of private MRI scans in the UK go to Where can I go for an MRI scan?


For indicative costs of private MRI body scans, view the MRI scan prices list.

Featured provider

Featured providers of MRI scans

You can find out more about the following providers of private MRI scans to UK patients on the Private Healthcare UK site:


Featured providers of MRI scans

Get a quote

Get a quote or further information

Private Healthcare UK has arrangements with some of the major UK private healthcare providers to provide you with a quote or further information on body scans such as MRI (brain MRI scans, cardiac MRI scans, etc). You'll get a response within 48 hours.

Complete the enquiry form...

Find a service

Find a provider

To locate specialist providers of MRI scanning, in the UK go to Where can I go for an MRI scan? You can also search our database of private hospitals. Many of these provide MRI or other body scanning services.

Treatment abroad icon

MRI scans abroad

Some UK patients go abroad for diagnostic imaging such as MRI and CT scans. You can make significant savings on the cost of MRI and CT scans by travelling to Europe.

Find out more....

Useful resources on the web



Information provider


Magnetic Resonance Imaging



MRI - Information for Patients

MagNet - MRI Evaluation, Quality Assurance, Specification and Safety


What is an MRI scan?

Patient UK