MRI - Prostate

Magnetic Resonance imaging (MRI) of the prostate uses a powerful magnetic field, radio waves and a computer to produce detailed pictures of the structures within a man’s prostate gland.

It is primarily used to evaluate the extent of prostate cancer and determine whether it has spread. It may also  be used to help diagnose infection, Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) or detect early prostate cancer. 

What is MRI scanning of the prostate?

The prostate gland is part of the male reproductive system. It is located in front of the rectum and below the bladder, where urine is stored and surrounds the first part of the urethra, the tube that connects the bladder with the tip of the penis and carries urine and other fluids out of the body.

MRI is the most commonly used technique to take images of the prostate gland. It does not use ionizing radiation, and it provides images that are clearer and more detailed than other imaging methods. Ultrasound is generally used when a prostate biopsy is required. 

What are some common uses of the examination?

The primary reason for a patient to be referred for an MRI of the prostate is to evaluate the potential presence of prostate cancer. The test is commonly used to assess for the presence of the condition and evaluate the extent in order to determine if the cancer is confined to the prostate, or if it has spread outside of the prostate gland.
Occasionally, MRI of the prostate is used to evaluate other prostate problems, including:
  • infection (prostatitis) or prostate abscess
  • an enlarged prostate, also known as Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
  • congenital abnormalities
  • complications after pelvic surgery.
  • On arrival, you will be asked to complete a safety questionnaire. One of our MRI Radiographers will then check it with you,explain the examination to you and answer any questions you may have.
    You will be asked to change into a gown and to remove any metal, for example: jewellery, hairpins, eyeglasses, watches, wigs, dentures, hearing aids and underwire bras. An MRI specialist, the Radiographer, will take you into the scanning room where you will lie on the scanner  table. 
    Devices that contain coils capable of sending and receiving radio waves may be placed around or adjacent to the area of the body being studied. During an MRI of the head, for example, a device is positioned around the head to improve image quality.
    During the MRI you may slowly move through the scanner. The scanner can be quite loud, due to the powerful magnets working within it. You will hear repetitive clicking, tapping and other loud noises. We will ask you, as a precaution, to wear hearing protection and for some scans you may be able to listen to the radio. You will be asked to lie very still so as to ensure clear images are produced . The Radiographer operating the scanner can both see and hear you clearly throughout the examination and will speak to you through an intercom connected to the headphones.
    The procedure is painless. You don't feel the magnetic field or radio waves, and there are no moving parts around you. Some patients find it uncomfortable to remain still during an MRI, whilst others experience a sense of being closed-in (claustrophobia). If this is something you are concerned about, you may want to ask your Physician for a prescription for a mild sedative prior to your scheduled examination.  However, fewer than one in 20 patients require medication for this.
    In some cases, a contrast dye called gadolinium, may be injected through an intravenous line into a vein in your hand or arm. The contrast is not always needed but can enhance the appearance of certain details in the scan. The contrast used during MRI scans is less likely to cause an allergic reaction than the dye used for CT scans.
    If you have not been sedated, no recovery period is necessary. You may resume your normal activities and diet immediately after the MRI. On very rare occasions, patients experience hives, itchy eyes or other reactions to the contrast dye (if it was used). If you experience symptoms of an allergic reaction, please notify the Radiographer. A Radiologist or other physician will be available for immediate assistance.