How Long Does an MRI Take?

MRI length

Clinically reviewed by Sandra Zaranti MHA, CRA, R.T (R)(MR)(CT)

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is a procedure that produces a three-dimensional picture of a part of the body. MRIs don’t rely on radiation but instead, use radio waves and strong magnets to capture individual images that a computer assembles into a 3D picture.

It’s a painless procedure, but it requires you to lie still inside what’s essentially a large tube with openings at both ends. Consequently, many patients scheduled for an MRI want to know how long it will take.

MRIs Take 15 to 90 Minutes

MRIs typically take between 15 and 90 minutes. However, scans of different parts of the body have unique time requirements based on the number of images that the MRI machine must capture. Whether or not a contrast dye is needed also affects the time.

Below are estimated durations for common MRI scans.

How long does a breast MRI take? 

A breast MRI generally takes 30 to 60 minutes. If the scan requires contrast dye to help the MRI machine pick up more subtle detail, getting the dye intravenously (i.e., through an IV) can add 30 minutes to the total procedure time. 

How long does a cardiac MRI take? 

There are many areas and structures in the heart. Consequently, the time for cardiac MRIs tends to be at the upper end of the range. They take approximately 90 minutes. 

How long does an ankle MRI take? 

The average time for an ankle MRI is 40 minutes, though some can take up to an hour.

How long does a head or brain MRI take? 

Depending on the focus of the scan, a head or brain MRI generally takes 30 to 60 minutes.

How long does a shoulder MRI take? 

A shoulder MRI can be completed in as little as 15 minutes, though it can take up to 45 minutes for more comprehensive scans. 

How long does lumbar spine MRI take?

Scans of the lumbar spine typically take 30 to 60 minutes. If contrast dye is required, the time frame is 45 to 90 minutes. 

How long does cervical spine MRI take? 

A cervical spine MRI may be completed in just 20 minutes in some instances, but the range is 30 to 45 minutes. 

How long does a hip MRI take? 

The average time frame for a hip MRI is 45 minutes, but they can require anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. 

How long does an abdominal MRI take?

Depending on the issue your doctor is diagnosing or evaluating, an abdominal MRI can take up to two hours. However, the average is 30 to 90 minutes. 

How long does a knee MRI take?

The average time for a knee MRI is 30 to 60 minutes. 

How long does a pelvic MRI take?

A typical pelvic MRI takes 30 to 90 minutes. The scan requires more images in some instances, extending the time slightly. 

How long does chest MRI take?

If you require a chest MRI, you should plan on the scan taking approximately 90 minutes.

Learn About MRIs and Other Imaging at Baptist Health

MRIs are simple, painless procedures. They provide doctors with important information about the condition of different organs, joints, and areas of the body. 

Learn more about imaging and diagnostic services at Baptist Health.


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