At Tufts Medical Center, we understand that being scheduled for an MRI can make you feel a little nervous. We've provided answers to some of the most frequently asked questions that we receive from patients below. Please let our staff know if there are any other questions that we can answer to help you feel more at ease. 

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic imaging technique that combines a powerful magnetic field with computer technology to produce exquisitely detailed images of your body's soft tissue (organs, muscles, fat). Because certain atoms in our cells respond, or resonate, slightly in the presence of magnetic fields, MRI is able to use that response to create an amazingly clear, detailed computer representation of internal organs, muscles, connective tissue, and the central nervous system. Using cross-sectional imaging of the body along multiple planes (like slices of bread), the clarity of these images is far greater than is available with conventional CT scans, X-rays, or even myelograms, allowing your physician to make an earlier and more accurate diagnosis. MRI is noninvasive (except in cases where contrast agents are injected).

Although an MRI is completely safe and painless, some people should not undergo an MRI, or will need to make special arrangements.

Any of the following conditions may interfere with your MRI. Please call us immediately if you are scheduled for an MRI and:

  • Have a cardiac pacemaker
  • Have a prosthetic heart valve
  • Have a surgical clip, bone or joint replacement, or any metallic implant
  • Have ever held a job in a metal-working industry or have been exposed to metallic dust or splinters
  • Have suffered a shrapnel wound
  • Have any metallic chips or splinters in the eye
  • Are pregnant, or think you might be
  • Weigh more than 300 pounds
  • Suffer from claustrophobia

No. MRI doesn’t expose patients to radioactive materials, X-ray, or any form of ionizing radiation. To the best of our knowledge, MRI produces no harmful side effects.


MRI machines are known for being noisy. This is because of the force of its strong electromagnetic field on a coiled wire. The force on the coil causes it to expand slightly when in use, which makes a loud “thump.” When the MRI is creating an image, there is a rapid-fire clicking noise because the electric current is being switched on and off rapidly. Click hereto hear what an MRI sounds like. 

Claustrophobia is a serious condition that may prevent patients from having a medically necessary MRI scan. At Tufts Medical Center, our staff and our equipment help patients minimize their anxiety and complete their scans successfully. 

If you are prone to claustrophobia or panic attacks, or are in any way concerned about how you could react during the scanning procedure, talk to your doctor about medication options and choosing the least confining MRI option for your scan..  

Our imaging technologists also assist patients with claustrophobia every day and are specially trained to help keep patients relaxed. We provide:

  • Comfortable positioning with warm blankets and pillows (depending on scan type)
  • Ongoing communication with the technologist throughout the scan
  • Headphones with Sirius satellite radio and your choice of relaxing music
  • The option to have a family member or friend accompany you for support

As of April 1, 2018, Tufts Medical Center and Shields MRI have finalized a joint venture for MRI services.. This joint venture is good news for Tufts MC and for our patients because: 
  • The three Tufts Medical Center and Shields MRI sites (Tufts Medical Center's campus in Boston, a location in Dedham and a location in Dorchester/Milton) will be connected to our patient electronic health record system – meaning clinicians will be easily able to order imaging and track results in the patient record.
  • Patients still will have the same great experience with the same friendly staff members who know Tufts MC and now work for Shields. Shields shares our reputation for superior customer service, and will be adding new tools to help improve experience with MRI.
  • Shields also will ensure the latest, more advanced and comfortable equipment is being used in each location.