MRI scanning

What is a MRI?

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a type of scan that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body. A standard MRI scanner is a large tube that contains powerful magnets and the patient has to lie down inside the tube to be scanned.

An MRI scan can be used to examine almost any part of the body, including:

  • Brain and spinal cord
  • Bones and joints
  • Breasts
  • Heart and blood vessels
  • Internal organs, such as the liver, womb or prostate gland.

The results of an MRI scan can be used to help diagnose conditions, plan treatments and assess how effective previous treatment has been.


There are three types of MRI scan:

  1. During a usual MRI (called a conventional MRI), the patient lies inside the tube during the scan
  2. An axially loaded MRI is a version of the usual MRI but weight is put on the body so the scans show how the body works when it’s moving or upright. To do this, the patient is given a special harness to wear when having the conventional MRI scan
  3. An upright/open MRI (called a positional MRI) has the patient sat down or stood up between two big magnets. This way, the scans will show how the body works when in certain positions. However, the machine is slower than a usual MRI and people who have pain or are unstable when either standing up or in certain seated positions or can find staying in one position for a long time difficult may find this treatment less suitable.

Patient eligibility criteria

Referrals for upright/open MRI scanning as an alternative to conventional MRI is only commissioned for:

  • Patients who suffer from claustrophobia where an oral prescription sedative has not been effective (flexibility in the route of sedative administration maybe required in paediatric patients as oral prescription may not be appropriate)


  • Patients who are obese and cannot fit comfortably in conventional MRI scanners as determined by a Consultant Radiologist/Radiology department policy


  • Patients who cannot lie properly in conventional MRI scanners because of severe pain despite adequate analgesia provision


  • Patients that require load bearing MRI images to be undertaken


  • There is a clear diagnostic need consistent with supported clinical pathways


  • The CCG will only fund uMRI of the specific anatomy requested. This means (for patients who DO NOT meet the above criteria) the CCG will only fund the treatment if an Individual Funding Request (IFR) application proves exceptional clinical need and that is supported by the CCG.


Advice and guidance

  • For more information, search for ‘MRI scan’ at
  • Choosing Wisely UK is part of a global initiative aimed at improving conversations between patients and their doctors and nurses.

Treatment policy for patients covered by NHS Birmingham and Solihull CCG

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