Pelvis MRI scan
A pelvis MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan is an imaging test that uses a machine with powerful magnets and radio waves to create pictures of the area between the hip bones. This part of the body is called the pelvic area.
Structures inside and near the pelvis include the bladder, prostate and other male reproductive organs, female reproductive organs, lymph nodes, large bowel, small bowel, and pelvic bones.
An MRI does not use radiation. Single MRI images are called slices. The images are stored on a computer or printed on film. One exam produces dozens or sometimes hundreds of images.
MRI - pelvis; MRI - hips; Pelvic MRI with prostate probe; Magnetic resonance imaging - pelvis
How the Test is Performed
You may be asked to wear a hospital gown or clothing without metal fasteners. Certain types of metal can cause inaccurate images.
You lie on your back on a narrow table. The table slides into the middle of the MRI machine.
Small devices, called coils, may be placed around your hip area. These devices help send and receive the radio waves, and improve the quality of the images. If pictures of the prostate and rectum are needed, a small coil may be placed into your rectum. This coil must stay in place for about 30 minutes while the images are taken.
Some exams require a special dye, called contrast media. The dye is most often given before the test through a vein (IV) in your hand or forearm. The dye helps the radiologist see certain areas more clearly.
During the MRI, the person who operates the machine will watch you from another room. The test typically lasts 30 to 60 minutes, but may take longer.
How to Prepare for the Test
You may be asked not to eat or drink anything for 4 to 6 hours before the scan.
Tell your health care provider if you are afraid of close spaces (have claustrophobia). You may be given a medicine to help you relax and be less anxious. Or your provider may suggest an open MRI in which the machine is not as close to the body.
Before the test, tell your provider if you have:
Because the MRI contains strong magnets, metal objects are not allowed into the room with the MRI scanner:
How the Test will Feel
An MRI exam causes no pain. If you have difficulty lying still or are very nervous, you may be given a medicine to relax you. Too much movement can blur MRI images and cause errors.
The table may be hard or cold, but you can request a blanket or pillow. The machine produces loud thumping and humming noises when turned on. You can wear ear plugs to help reduce the noise.
An intercom in the room allows you to speak to someone at any time. Some MRIs have televisions and special headphones that you can use to help the time pass.
There is no recovery time, unless you were given a medicine to relax. After an MRI scan, you can resume your normal diet, activity, and medicines.
Why the Test is Performed
This test may be done if a female has any of the following signs or symptoms:
This test may be done if a male has any of the following signs or symptoms:
A pelvic MRI may be done in both males and females who have:
A pelvic MRI is also often done to see if certain cancers have spread to other areas of the body. This is called staging. Staging helps guide future treatment and follow-up and gives you some idea of what to expect in the future. A pelvic MRI may be used to help stage cervical, uterine, bladder, rectal, prostate and testicular cancers.
A normal result means your pelvic area appears normal.
What Abnormal Results Mean
Abnormal results in a woman may be due to:
Abnormal results in a man may be due to:
Abnormal results in both males and females may be due to:
Talk to your provider if you have questions and concerns.
MRI contains no radiation. To date, no side effects from the magnetic fields and radio waves have been reported.
The most common type of contrast (dye) used is gadolinium. It is very safe. Allergic reactions to the substance rarely occur. But gadolinium can be harmful to people with kidney problems who require dialysis. If you have kidney problems, tell your provider before the test.
The strong magnetic fields created during an MRI can cause heart pacemakers and other implants to not work as well or lose all function. It can also cause a piece of metal inside your body to move or shift.
Tests that may be done instead of a pelvic MRI include:
A CT scan may be done in emergency cases, since it is faster and most often available in the emergency room.
Norton ME, Scoutt LM, Feldstein VA. Magnetic resonance imaging of the female pelvis: representative protocols. In: Norton ME, Scoutt LM, Feldstein VA, eds. Callen's Ultrasonography in Obstetrics and Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:appendix J.
Wilkinson ID, Graves MJ. Magnetic resonance imaging. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, Gillard JH, Schaefer-Prokop CM, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2015:chap 5.
Zagoria RJ, Dyer R, Brady C. An introduction to radiologic methods. In: Zagoria RJ, Dyer R, Brady C, eds. Genitourinary Imaging: The Requisites. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 1.
Review Date: 1/2/2017
Reviewed By: Jason Levy, MD, Northside Radiology Associates, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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