MRI with Contrast

Hello everybody. I have my MRI with contrast on Sunday and I’m really starting to worry about it. I’m terrified about the dye because what I’ve read of it, it doesn’t sound good for you! I’m so concerned about what it will feel like and I’ve also never had an MRI scan before. Of course, I’m worried about what it will show as well. Can anybody give any experiences of MRI with contrast?

I have had a few MRI with contrast…best guess is 5. Might be 4, might be 6 so I’ll go with 5ish! I have had no adverse effects at all. I believe I was told that I may feel a cooling sensation when injected but didn’t even really make note of that. I must admit that I have yet to see the inside of the machine as I close my eyes when entering and don’t open them again until I get out. While not claustrophobic it works for me because it would be a true test if one had any of those tendencies. Its fairly close quarters and loud. They will use a variety of ear plug and ear muffs. I had both foam plugs and a headset my last one. My longest was about an hour and now they know where to look its about 25 minutes and done. Take Care, John.

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I’ve not had contrast, except through an angiogram and I suppose the effect may be similar or different. In an angiogram, the contrast is placed very specifically in artery A then artery B; and depending on what parts of your brain is supplied through each artery, it can make you have a hot flush or feel dizzy or maybe a bit nauseous etc. The effect is very brief (2-5 seconds?) and I’d say so long as you know what’s coming, it’s easy to cope with it. But that’s where you have a catheter injected and guided up to the very specific artery that the radiographer wants to study and it’s more of a mini operation / procedure than a scan.

I am not clear whether an MRI with contrast is like that, or whether the contrast is injected in a more ordinary place and by the time it reaches your brain the effects more diluted. I hope others can explain which is which.

In terms of going into the MRI machine, in general, it is just very noisy and seems to take rather a long time, depending on how many types of scan the radiographer needs. I’d say 30-40 minutes for the ones I’ve had. You lie on a examination bed, head in a mould, so it supports your neck properly and you get a bit wedged in, so it’s easier to lie still and don’t move around. Nice pillows under your legs so you can lie comfortably. Then, where I was, a frame placed over your face. The frame sounds worse than it is. It contains a periscope, so that rather than going into the MRI machine and looking at the inside of a plastic drum, you look into the periscope and you can see the radiographer in their control room and wave or gesticulate at them. You’ll also have a set of headphones and ear plugs so you can hear the radiographer as they tell you about each scan, and a panic button that you can press if you need attention.

In reality, I found the process noisy and a bit long and generally sub-pleasant but the periscope really worked for me. I was much happier looking out of the tube, seeing my feet in the distance and the radiographer beyond than what I imagined. Perfectly gettable-throughable. You’ll be absolutely fine!

Hope this helps,



I’ve had a couple of MRIs with contrast and CT angiograms with contrast and other than a warm odd sensation for a short period of time; they’re not bad,I’m a little bit claustrophobic so I keep my eyes closed from a little before going into the MRI until I come out just so it don’t get anxious.
it’s a little loud in there so it’s easy to get anxious but it’s not bad and put on some music keep your eyes closed and just try to relax…

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Jen, Take a deep breath. I have had MRI’s and CT’s with contrast more times than I can count on both hands and probably both feet. Here’s what to expect…

  • they will hook up an IV - no big deal.
  • they will run a very small “test dose” of the contrast - no big deal.
  • then they will put you in the MRI machine. If you are the least bit claustrophobic, ask, no wait, don’t ask, DEMAND to be given something to either knock you out or probably just make you sleepy and not remember them. I’ve had them without any assistance and it’s not fun and for me (6 ft. 2" and about 250 lbs,) there was almost no room between my nose and the top of the tube.
  • the MRI will be very loud. They will probably give you the option of listening to music on headphones - it will most likely be their headphones but if you have a smart phone or something that you can play music on, they will probably use yours. Do not say no and typically take the loudest type of music you can tolerate. Don’t do Swan Lake when you like the Rolling Stones too. It won’t be loud the whole time and you probably won’t hear the music when it is loud but still do it.
  • When they give you the contrast, and this is going to sound weird, it will make you warm all over and it will generate the feeling that you have to go to the bathroom. The first couple of times, I thought I wet my pants, but I didn’t.
  • Every MRI I’ve had done has taken 45 minutes or so. You lose track of time in there because all you’ll hear is your music, loud thawumping (technical term) and them talking to you in between. You will be strapped in so tight, you couldn’t move even if you wanted to (see comment above about sedation).
  • After every MRI and CT that I’ve had done with contrast (and angiograms too) I typically feel just a little bit “yucky.” Sort of like you’d imagine you’d feel going to work on a rainy cold dreary Monday after a weekend where you celebrated something a little too much. I find the best thing I can do to counter that is ibuprofen and fluids (but not the alcoholic kind). Flush the stuff out of your system.

Been there, done that many times, probably won’t again though - something about 11 metal clips and 30 metal coils in my head that will most likely keep them from running great big magnets around my head.

You can do this. It’s not fun, but there’s a lot of things that are a lot worse.

Any other questions, let me know…


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Man, Richard, I wish the places I’ve had them had a periscope. That would have been AWESOME!

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I have had several myself. No big deal. But I dont have issues with small spaces.

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I’ve had about 6 MRIs with contrast. It’s a piece of cake. Just zen out and let it happen. The last couple I had, I had to have a kidney function test first to make sure I could tolerate the dye. Apparently if your kidneys are compromised it could be problematic. I was ok. The warm feeling is strange but not painful and they tell you when they are starting the dye so it doesn’t catch you off guard. The worst part is the noise but you are offered music, earplugs and headphones. I’ve had worse tests including agios and lumbar punctures.

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Hey everybody, the scan is over and done with, thank you everybody for your kind replies to my initial post. The only feelings I got was a very bad taste in my mouth!

I was order an MRI of the brain, MRA of the brain and MRA of the carotid arteries. The scan took about 40 minutes but only 5 minutes with the contrast. I’m scared and confused that this isn’t right, why only such a short time with the contrast? I’m on the NHS and we had to FIGHT for the contrast, so I want to make sure they’ve anyalysed everything properly. What was everybody else’s experience? How long after the dye was injected did you stay in the scanner?



Some of the scans don’t take very long at all. I’m pretty sure that the contrast disperses quickly, so I would think the contrast scan would be short. In an angiogram, you have a number of injections of the contrast and they disperse quickly, otherwise you’d never see one shot for the “gunsmoke” of the previous ones.

I think you’ll be fine.

Well done!


I was told the dye takes 10 - 30 seconds. It whooshes through pretty quickly. It is then flushed from your body through your urine within 24 hours so you should drink lots of water to facilitate this.

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Mine have always been like that. First part takes a good bit of time, but the contrast doesn’t last long at all.

The issue with the contrast is that they use a heavy metal chelate of Gadolinium. Some types of contrast - linear molecule - are unstable and have been suspended in some countries in Europe. It can be bad for people with kidney issues. There are some other gadolinium compounds ( cyclic molecule) which may be less harmful. There is an association in the US for patients which have done MRI with contrast and who reported subsequent health issues

I’ve had at least one to two MRI with contrast for the last 5 years .
I diden’t feel any reaction …but concerning it’s effect on bodies, I was told by one doctor that it’s not recommended to do a lot of them …

Dear folks, I had AVM with hydrocephalus in 2014 and I had inserted codman metal shunt into my head (right part of head above ear).I had gamma knife in 2015, all good except painful holes after sealing head cage by screws.Then I had undergo MRI with codman shunt in just 0.75 Tesla MRI(old mri with little magnetic field in purpose because of most Philips MRI are 3 Tesla which will destroy my brain with metal shunt).I got scared in tunnel of MRI equippment.After MRI I was desoriented and distracted one week with head pain.Never ever MRI with metal shunt!!! Today they made me angio just check up after 5 years.Big pain and heating when they did head angio scan.Never ever even such methods even they are not invasive.It is very important to do blood and kidney check up because contrast can harm kindney.But I finally managed all scans and my AVM/hydrocephalus gone and I am healed.Now I am drinking a lot and trying get of rid contrast by urine as soon as possible.I have my angel who is saving me.Regards Andy


It’s good to hear from you and its great that you are all fixed! I seem to think your Codman shunt was giving you difficulty before.

Thanks for sharing and good luck for the future!


Hi no codman is not neeeded anymore.Neurosurgeon said it us out of operation.AVM malformation gone after gamma knife treatment.I just want warn all folks who has shunt leftovered in head and going for MRI.It is really painful and scaring.But surgeon has told despite of shunt does not work and it is just piece of metal in head it is very riscy to get rid shunt by another surgery.Shunt is after years integrated very deeply to brain tissue so I am decided to leave inside till death.I am just beeping on airport scanners.Not big deal.

I agree about the risk of getting rid of it! It’s great to know you’re doing so well.

Very best wishes,


Hello Jen,

I have had two cerebral angiograms and I think two dye test MRIs, all on the NHS, the MRI with the contrast dye were super quick. On balance though, with regard to harm, over use long term of painkillers and NSAID for chronic pain management have their own implications. I always took the view that each test took me closer to managing the pain I was often in differently and the tests like this were a necessary part of the process, also only short and in a medical environment with practiced people. There’s loads of good advice in the comments above that I wish I had seen before I had mine in 2015. Its good to hear yours went well!!
Keep on keeping on!

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I have had a ton with contrast. Are you claustrophobic?
My only weird thing was a metal taste and warm feeling. I had to pee after but a good thing to drink water to flush your system. The only bad one was when I thought they pushed dye in too fast. I always ask, now. Gotta be your own advocate.