Brain MRI uses radio frequency, magnetic fields, and a computer to produce exceptional images of the brain and brain stem. This exam is also referred to as a head MRI or cranial MRI. Brain MRI is often used to diagnose stroke, tumors, aneurysms, hemorrhaging, or other chronic nervous system diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Additionally, it helps doctors investigate symptoms such as blurry vision, dizziness, seizures, and chronic headaches. Cranial MRI can be helpful when examining the pituitary gland or brain stem as conventional techniques such as X-ray or CT imaging provide less detail for these areas. Patients with a history of claustrophobia should talk to their doctor about taking mild sedatives before their brain MRI as a device with special coils is positioned around the head to aid with imaging.
During brain imaging, you will be moved into the MRI machine head first, on your back. A device will be positioned around your head to help us obtain the best possible images of your brain. If you are claustrophobic, please consult with your doctor to see if you should take anti-anxiety medication before your exam.
Alberta Health Services does not cover private MRI services outside of the hospital. The cost of a brain MRI ranges from $600 to $900, depending on the need for contrast and/or additional sequences.
The need for contrast is determined by the radiologist at the time of imaging if it is determined that it is required for a proper diagnosis. The need for contrast is also impacted by specific patient history.
A brain MRI typically lasts 30 minutes. The technologist, who can hear and see you during the exam, will provide you with an emergency button so you can communicate with them throughout the procedure.
Being prepared for your brain MRI helps us take the best possible images for diagnosis. Please visit our exam prep page for more instructions specific to brain MRI preparation.