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Phoenix VA Health Care System

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Radiology - MRI Department

MRI Department

Magnetic resonance imaging uses very powerful magnets to align the hydrogen nuclei of atoms inside the body. The magnetic field causes atoms to produce their own rotating magnetic field once the patient is inside the magnet. The images are created by passing radio frequency waves to the area of body being imaged which are converted by a computer. The MRI machine is a cylindrical tube that uses a magnetic field with pulsation of radio frequency waves to convert the signal into pictures of organs and structures inside the human body.

For a typical MRI, the patient will lie down on their back for their study. A technologist will place coils around the body part that is supposed to be imaged. If your study is ordered with contrast, an intravenous (IV) line will be placed before the exam is started. Some exams will require the patient to hold their breath for a short amount of time. MRI is not harmful as it uses radiofrequency waves to acquire its images. MRI is loud, but hearing protection and/or headphones will be provided during the examination.
The Phoenix VA MRI department provides advanced imaging in several areas such as body, musculoskeletal and neurology imaging to our veterans.  Our entire MRI technologists are nationally accredited by ARRT (American Registry of Radiologic Technologist). MRI is accredited by Imaging Center of Excellence by American College of Radiology in Breast imaging. Radiologists and physicists from the American College of Radiology have recognized our physicians, personnel and technology for meeting or exceeding their standards of excellence in quality and safety.

Every patient that arrives for their MRI will have to fill out a screening form that will ask about your surgical history. If your exam is scheduled with contrast you will be asked to fill out a contrast form giving the VA permission to give you contrast. After your paperwork is completed, every patient is required to change into a hospital gown. This is necessary because clothing contains metallic zippers, buttons and material that can cause burns during the MRI examination. All jewelry such as necklaces, earrings and all body piercings will have to be removed. If you need assistance, we are here to help. 

Below is a partial list of exams the MRI department offers:

  • Musculoskeletal
    • Hand, shoulder, wrist, knee (pre-op total knee replacement planning), ankle, arthrogram injections (shoulder, wrist, hips)
  • Neurology
    • Brain, (cine study for hydrocephalus, TBI), angiography (vessel imagine), spine
  • Body
    • Kidney, liver (elastography for cirrhosis), breast, prostate, cardiac, carotid research, enterography (small intestine)


  • 602-277-5551 ext. 7611 (You can leave a voice mail if after normal business hours)

Hours of Service: 

  • 4 a.m. - 10 p.m., Monday-Friday
  • 6 a.m. - 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday
  • Please check in 15 minutes prior to your scheduled appointment time.


  • The MRI Department is located on the 2st floor of the ACC building in outpatient x-ray.  
    • From the main entrance of the ACC building (off Indian School Rd):
      • Come through the front doors of the ACC building.
      • Head to your right approximately 60 feet as you come through the front doors to the elevators #S10 & #S11, located just to the right of the main lobby area & across from Diamond Clinic.
      • Take the elevator to the 2nd Floor.
      • Turn left out of the elevator.  The Outpatient Radiology department is located on your left, approximately 30 feet from the elevators, in the first room past the Men’s Restroom.
      • Look for the SIGN “X-RAY RADIOLOGY”. (We are directly across from the Outpatient Lab and Specialty Clinic.)
    • From valet parking and the northwest parking lot (via the north entrance of the ACC):
      • Come through the rotating door and head straight down the hallway approximately 150 feet.
      • You will pass the “Dental Clinic”, then “Beneficiary Travel”, next you’ll pass “Patient Advocate” and then “Turquoise Clinic”.
      • The main lobby area is to your right.
      • Turn left after the Turquoise Clinic to the main elevators #S10 & #S11, that are located across from the Diamond Clinic.
      • Take the elevator to the 2nd Floor.
      • Turn left out of the elevator, the Outpatient Radiology department is located on your left, approximately 30 feet from the elevators, in the first room past the Men’s Restroom.
      • Look for the SIGN “X-RAY RADIOLOGY”. (We are directly across from the Outpatient Lab and Specialty Clinic.)
NOTE ABOUT SERVICE ANIMALS: Any person bringing any guide/service or program therapy animal into the facility must follow these guidelines:
  • Service or guide dogs will accompany the handler at all times unless doing so would either create a fundamental alteration, impede the treatment of patients, or the area has restricted access.
  • Areas off limits to service animals/guide dogs include, but may not be limited to:
    • Radiology procedure areas
    • Procedure and negative air pressure rooms
    • Areas where invasive procedures are being performed
    • Laboratory/Phlebotomy areas
    • Medication preparation areas
    • Decontamination, sterile preparation and storage areas
    • Food preparation areas
It is important to be aware that VA staff cannot take control of any service animal, cannot take the service animal to a kennel or boarding facility, and cannot attempt to board the service animal themselves on VA property. A service animal must be under the control of a handler or alternate handler at all times.

General MRI Exam Preparation

At the time of scheduling, you will be asked a few questions for your MRI. Here is some additional information to help you prepare and make your visit easier.
  • Minor children will not be supervised by VA staff.
    • Minor children Radiology Department policy:
      • Radiology appointment reminder letters will remind patients of their responsibility to ensure children are supervised at all times during appointments and visits.
      • In general, young children should not accompany patients into radiology exam rooms, therapy areas or other procedure rooms.  This is particularly true because radiology exams frequently involve exposure of the patient to radiation, radiopharmaceuticals or high powered magnetic fields. As there is a potential for harm to the child, children are not allowed in the examination rooms. PVAHCS does not provide a qualified individual to watch the child during these instances. Childcare will need to be arranged in advance by the parent or guardian.
      • Should a child’s presence interfere with the delivery of health care services, staff will enforce this policy tactfully and politely and make every effort to accommodate the patient’s scheduling requests or reschedule the appointment or procedure.
    • Pregnant women may be rescheduled or schedule after the first trimester or pregnancy.
    • Please arrive 30 minutes before your appointment. Some MRI examinations may require the patient to arrive earlier than this.
    • Any authorized service animals will not be allowed into the scanning area so please bring a designated person to watch and care for your service animal during your exam.
    • Discuss any claustrophobia with the scheduler prior to your appointment.
    • Please do not eat or drink anything four (4) hours prior to contrast exams. Your test may be cancelled and/or rescheduled if prep is not followed.
    • Any ferrous metal within your body must be identified prior to your scan.
    • Surgical implants may require an operative report or implant card stating the make and model number. Your MRI may be rescheduled or cancelled if you do not have these documents.
    • Additional exams may be ordered by the interpreting radiologist after your scheduled exam. Please allow time for this possibility.
    • The approximate exam time you were given during the scheduling process may be shorter or longer, depending on many factors.  Sometimes an emergent situation may arise which may possibly delay your exam.  Every effort will be made to accommodate appointment times.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Will I have to change out of my clothes for my MRI appointment?
A: Yes, you will have to change into a hospital gown for all MRI’s. Clothing can be made with silver stitching that help reduce odor when sweating. Unfortunately, this poses a serious safety concern for the patient that could potentially cause a burn during the MRI.  

Q: How long will my appointment take? 
A. MRI exams can vary in length anywhere from 30 minutes up to 3 hours or more. Sometimes patients get several MRIs during one visit. Sometimes the exam may require contrast. Both scenarios can increase the length of time of your appointment.  Also, in some instances, a Radiologist may be involved with the exam which may add time to your appointment. 

Q: Is there radiation used with MRI?
A: No. MRIs do not contain any radiation. The only harm to the patient is the noise that the magnet makes during the scan. You will be provided with headphones and/or earplugs during the procedure.

Q. Do I need to fast before an MRI?
A. If your MRI is being done with contrast, then fasting for 4-6 hours prior to the examination is necessary. An example of a fasting MRI would be a MRI of the brain with and without contrast.

Q: If I had implants in my body from surgery can I still have an MRI?
A: This depends on the type of implant, when the surgery was done and where it is located in the body. If your doctor gave you an implant card describing your implant, please bring this to your appointment.

Q: Do I have to let the MRI technologist know about all surgeries that I had?
A: Yes. No matter what, all surgeries should be disclosed to your physician and to the MRI technologist prior to any MRI examination. The kind of surgery you've had will determine if an MRI can be done safely. If you had any surgery to your body, whether or not an implant has been placed, it is very important that you let the MRI technologist know before the examination starts.
  • Examples of surgical implants safe for MRI following 6-8 weeks following surgery include:
    • Fusions of the spine
    • Gallbladder surgery
    • Dental work
  • Examples of implants NOT SAFE for MRI include:
    • Harrington rods
    • Shrapnel (from IEDs), bullets, BBs
    • Stimulators (nerve)
It’s very important you let the technologist know about all surgical hardware and any potential exposure to IED or explosions. Once in the MRI machine, the magnetic implants and shrapnel that are not safe for MRI can move or be pulled from the body by the powerful magnet. This can cause bruising, bleeding, and in the most sever cases, death.