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How Long Does It Take To Get MRI Results

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) plays a vital role in detecting and evaluating numerous medical conditions.

A non-invasive test, MRI scans provide detailed images of our internal body structures, including the organs, tissues, and skeletal system. Your doctor will likely order this type of scan, particularly when evaluating soft tissue, joints, ligaments, tendons, the spine, or the brain.

It typically takes one to two weeks to get your MRI results. There are several factors, however, that may shorten or prolong the waiting time.

Emergent vs. Non-Emergent MRI Scans

An emergent MRI is a medical imaging procedure conducted in response to a time-sensitive or urgent medical condition. These conditions typically involve acute symptoms, severe injuries, or life-threatening situations where immediate diagnosis and intervention are necessary. On the other hand, a non-emergent MRI refers to a scheduled or routine imaging examination performed for non-urgent medical purposes, such as routine check-ups, monitoring chronic conditions, or investigating non-life-threatening symptoms. The key distinction between the two lies in the urgency and prioritization of the cases. Consequently, the time it takes to receive the MRI results can vary significantly. In emergent cases, the time it takes to get the MRI results is typically much shorter as the imaging is conducted promptly to aid in diagnosing and initiating immediate decision-making and treatment. Conversely, non-emergent MRI results may take longer to be reviewed and communicated to the patient, as they are usually not time-sensitive and may follow a regular workflow.

Where You Receive Your MRI Scan

The geographical location where you undergo an imaging test can impact the time it takes to receive your MRI results. In areas with limited healthcare resources or high patient demand, there might be longer waiting times for MRI appointments. Consequently, this can lead to delays in scheduling the procedure itself and, subsequently, in obtaining the results. In regions with a higher concentration of medical facilities and specialized radiologists, the process of reviewing and interpreting the MRI scans may be expedited, resulting in shorter turnaround times for receiving the results. Moreover, the efficiency of the healthcare system and its infrastructure, including the availability of advanced imaging technologies and streamlined communication channels, can also influence the time it takes for you to obtain your MRI results.

Availability of Subspecialty Radiologists

The availability of subspecialty radiologists can directly impact the time it takes to receive MRI results. Subspecialty radiologists are specialized experts who possess in-depth knowledge and experience in specific areas of radiology, such as neuroradiology, musculoskeletal radiology, or cardiovascular radiology. When an MRI scan involves a particular body part or condition requiring specialized expertise, the images must be reviewed and interpreted by these subspecialty radiologists. If there is a shortage of such radiologists in a given healthcare system or region, it can lead to longer turnaround times for MRI results. The demand for their expertise, combined with their limited availability, may result in a backlog of cases awaiting review. In such situations, patients may experience delays in receiving their MRI reports as they are prioritized based on the urgency and complexity of their condition.

The Body Part or System Being Evaluated By the MRI Scan

The type of MRI performed and the specific body part being analyzed can impact the time it takes to receive results. Different types of MRI scans, such as brain, spine, abdomen, or extremities, may vary in complexity and duration. Some MRI examinations require additional specialized sequences or contrast agents, which can prolong the imaging process. Furthermore, depending on the specific condition being evaluated, certain body parts may require a more detailed analysis or consultation with specialized physicians, such as neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, or abdominal specialists. Consequently, the interpretation time may vary based on the complexity of the scan and the availability of specialized expertise. Additionally, further consultations or additional imaging may be necessary if the MRI detects an unexpected or complex finding, which can extend the time it takes to receive the final results.

How Can I Reduce the Wait Time For My MRI Results?

Online subspecialty second opinions offer an avenue to get your MRI results quickly. If your estimated wait time is days or weeks, using such a service can ensure you receive your results sooner. You can request a copy of your MRI images from the imaging facility or hospital. A staff member will prepare a CD with a copy of all your images. Typically, this can be made available immediately after your appointment. The study images can then be uploaded directly from the CD to a second opinion provider for interpretation. Be sure to choose a company that connects you with a subspecialty radiologist and not a generalist. Subspecialists will have specific training and expertise in reading MRI scans of the particular body part or system your scan evaluates. DocPanel, for example, is a subspecialty second opinion provider that ensures the best-suited subspecialist reads every case. Once you submit your scan, you will receive your MRI results within 24-48 hours. You can share the report with your healthcare team, including your primary care physician or doctor who referred you for the MRI.

If MRI Results Are Bad, Do They Tell You Right Away?

The timing of delivering MRI results depends on several factors, including the healthcare facility’s protocols and the urgency of the situation. In cases where MRI results reveal significant abnormalities or findings that require immediate attention, medical professionals typically strive to communicate the results promptly. The severity of the condition and the potential impact on the patient’s health play a crucial role in expediting the communication process. However, it’s important to note that the exact timeframe for sharing bad MRI results can vary. In some instances, the healthcare provider may discuss the preliminary findings immediately after the scan or within a relatively short period. However, the process might take longer in more complex cases or when additional consultations or specialist opinions are required for accurate interpretation. Medical professionals aim to balance the need for prompt communication with ensuring accurate and comprehensive information, providing appropriate support and guidance for patients upon receiving potentially concerning MRI results.

DocPanel is committed to making sure every patient receives excellent care. If you would like an expert second opinion on your medical imaging from a fellowship-trained subspecialty radiologists, you can learn more here.

NEXT: Read our blog post on the Should I Get A Radiology Second Opinion?

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