Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a method of looking inside the body. Instead of x-rays, the MRI scanner uses magnetism and radio waves to produce remarkably clear pictures of your head, spine, or other parts of your body. An MRI scanner consists of a strong magnet with a radio transmitter and receiver. These instruments gather the information out of your body. MRI produces soft tissue images and is used to distinguish normal, healthy soft tissue from pathologic tissue.

Depending on what information your doctor needs, the MRI or CT scan may require the use of a contrast agent (dye) given intravenously to assist in visualization of certain structures in your body like blood vessels, vascular tissue, infectious tumor, etc.  MRI requires a gadolinium-based contrast agent while CT requires the use of an iodinated contrast medium.

MRI is a non-invasive and safe test. As MRI works with a strong magnet and radio waves, you need to tell us if any of the following applies to you or the person that accompanies you into the exam room:

  • Aneurysm clip(s)
  • Cardiac pacemaker
  • Implanted cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)
  • Electronic implant or device
  • Magnetically-activated implant or device
  • Neurostimulation system
  • Spinal cord stimulator
  • Cochlear implant or implanted hearing aid
  • Insulin or infusion pump
  • Implanted drug infusion device
  • Any type of prosthesis or implant
  • Artificial or prosthetic limb
  • Any metallic fragment or foreign body
  • Any external or internal metallic object
  • Hearing aid

Any metallic substance on your person can affect the quality of the diagnostic images. It can also cause discomfort or even injury to you when placed into the magnetic field. Also, tell us if you are pregnant!

No special preparation is needed prior to the exam, unless your doctor has given you other instructions. You will be asked to complete a safety screening form and answer questions pertaining to your medical history. You will be given scrubs to wear for your examination. Remove all cell phones,  jewelry, watches, hairpins, glasses, wallets, and other metallic objects.

After you have removed all metal objects, the technologist will position you on a special table. Your head will be placed in a padded plastic cradle or on a pillow, and the table will then slide into the scanner. You will be able to communicate with the technologist during the scan.

For clear pictures, you will be asked to hold very still and relax. In some cases, you will be asked to hold your breath for up to 30 seconds. Any movement, especially of your head or back (even moving your jaw to talk) during the scan will seriously blur the pictures. While the machine is taking your pictures, you will hear rapidly repeating, loud thumping noises coming from the walls of the scanner; therefore, earplugs or headphones with music will be provided. During this time, you should breathe quietly and normally but otherwise refrain from any movement, coughing, or wiggling. When the thumping noise stops, you must refrain from changing your position or moving about. This whole procedure will usually be repeated several times to create a complete set of images.

As described above, MRI utilizes a magnet and radio freqency waves to produce the images. CT scanners utilize x-ray radiation to produce images. Each imaging technique provides cross-sectional images for the radiologist and your physician to review. Each technique has its advantages and disadvantages, and should be selected by your physician in order to best provide the information that is needed.

The radiologist will study your examination and give his or her impression and report to your doctor. Then your doctor will discuss the results with you and explain what they mean in relation to your health.

Three tesla (3T) MRI is a measurement for the strength of the magnet used in the MRI. 3T is the most powerful magnetic strength allowed in clinical scanning nationwide. A strong MRI system (such as 3T) produces higher quality images in less time. The high-quality images are important because there are a lot of small structures in the body that need to be evaluated.

Big Sky Diagnostic Imaging works with hundreds of insurance policies, including primary and secondary providers. As a service to patients, Big Sky will verify insurance information and estimate the patient responsibility for the scan. Big Sky understands that medical bills can be an unexpected financial strain, and as such, they offer an in-house billing specialist to assist patients.

Patients will receive a confirmation call about 24 hours before the scan. Any financial questions can be answered at that time. If you need to speak with a patient representative before the confirmation, please call Big Sky at (406) 237-5525.

Before you are scanned, Big Sky Diagnostic Imaging will need some information from you. Since we are not affiliated with any other hospital or clinic, we do not have access to your demographic information. If you would like to save some time at your appointment, you may complete your paperwork on your personal computer before your appointment. Then simply bring the completed paperwork with you to your scheduled appointment.