What should I know about discussing my brain MRI results with my healthcare provider?

November 27, 2023 – 12 min read

Share this post:

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a helpful tool for better understanding and diagnosing certain illnesses and injuries. A brain MRI is a secure and non-invasive way to see detailed images of the inside of the head and neck quickly and without exposure to radiation. 

You might feel some anxiety and fear about your brain MRI results. These results can be confusing to interpret on your own, which makes it more effective to review them with a healthcare provider. It is important to know how to navigate this conversation to allow you to move on with clarity and confidence.  

Understanding your brain MRI

Being told you need any medical scan raises questions and concerns. When it comes to your brain MRI, it is important to remember that this is a routine scan that happens every day. That does not mean it isn’t confusing or stressful. It is important to take the time to understand what a brain MRI is and why it is being recommended to you. 

A brain MRI is a diagnostic scan for many illnesses, injuries, or disease. This study is typically used to diagnose anything affecting the nerves, brain, spinal cord, inner ear problems, and the like. Your healthcare provider likely recommended this scan because they are curious to find out if you have any damage affecting those parts of your brain, head, or neck. 

A typical brain MRI usually takes around 30-60 minutes. You will lie on your back on a metal bed that slides into a donut-shaped magnet machine. This MRI machine uses magnets and radio frequency waves to capture images of your body. For a head MRI, your technologist will secure a plastic head coil around your head. This enhances the detail of your images because it interacts with the magnets in the machine. The machine will make some loud noises while you are inside, but you will have headphones or earplugs for your comfort. Your technologist may also provide a blanket or a washcloth to cover your eyes for the duration of your scan. 

Your brain MRI results will be black and white pictures of the inside of your head and the muscles, bones, and organs within it. The brain will show up gray on your results and any black or white spots are concentrations of different masses. For example, brain lesions show up as white spots, but white spots do not always mean you have brain lesions. There are many reasons why your results have black or white spots on the brain and many illnesses they could be used to diagnose. 

Understanding your brain MRI results

Getting your MRI results back can relieve much of the stress of getting a brain MRI, but understanding your results is more difficult than it may seem. Your results may be difficult to analyze, requiring multiple healthcare providers or specialists to weigh in. This takes time and attention to detail—it is important that your provider gives you an accurate analysis of your results, but you may have to wait anywhere from a few days to two weeks to get your results. 

The radiologist will send your results to your healthcare provider, who will then analyze your results. After this analysis, your provider will reach out to you to deliver these results or to schedule a follow-up appointment to go over them in person. At this follow-up appointment, your provider will discuss your condition, your concerns, and potentially create a treatment plan for whatever result you received. 

Consulting with your healthcare provider about your results

It can be intimidating and stressful to bring up questions or concerns to your healthcare provider when discussing your brain MRI results. The best defense for this health anxiety is to arm yourself with information. It is essential to have a productive discussion with your healthcare provider about your brain MRI results to understand your condition and make informed decisions about your health. 

Your provider will likely schedule a follow-up appointment to discuss your results. If you think you may be overwhelmed or anxious about your results, consider bringing a family member or close friend for emotional support. It is normal to feel anxious and concerned when learning about your MRI results. Your healthcare provider should be empathetic and willing to address your emotional needs and medical questions. 

The best way to have a productive discussion with your healthcare provider is to be proactive. Prepare in advance by collecting any relevant health documents you might need and your MRI report. This will help you have a clear understanding of the terminology. Write down any questions or concerns you have to stay organized during the discussion. Try to use open-ended language when asking questions, like some of these examples:

  • “Could you tell me more about what you found in the MRI?”
  • “Will you provide me with more information and reassurance about what the MRI results mean for me?”
  • “Would you explain more about the treatment options or the next steps, so I can better understand my situation?”
  • “What are the potential treatment options for my condition?”

Ask your provider about the implications of the MRI finding on both your health and well-being. It is important that you understand the potential causes, treatment options, and next steps. Be honest about any concerns and fears related to your MRI results. If there are multiple treatment options, discuss your preferences and make sure your provider is aware of your emotional state regarding them.

Taking notes during the discussion may make you feel more secure. You can also ask for a copy of the MRI report and any related images to review or share with other healthcare providers. Discuss if follow-up scans or consultations with specialists are necessary. You should have a clear plan for ongoing treatment at the end of your appointment.

After you talk with your doctor: your next steps

Once you have a good understanding of what your brain MRI results mean, you can leave your appointment and start thinking about what happens next. For some, this looks like getting a second opinion on your results and for others it means looking into different treatment options. Whatever your next steps are, it is important you have a plan and the support to carry it out. 

The bottom line is that you should be open and honest about your symptoms, medical history, and concerns about your condition. Remember that your healthcare provider is there to support you and provide the best care possible. Further scans may be required. This might mean additional MRI scans or more detailed scans like CT scans. If additional studies are required, your healthcare provider should explain why they are required. 

If you are unsure about your condition and treatment, ask your healthcare provider about finding a second opinion. Your provider has your best interests in mind, and they want you to find the care you need and deserve. Your second opinion might be a different healthcare provider or someone who is a specialist on your condition. 

Effective communication and collaboration are necessary to get you the treatment and care you deserve. If you have concerns about the diagnosis or treatment plan, don’t hesitate to seek a second opinion from another provider or specialist. 

Managing your emotional and mental well-being

Anxiety about your test results can be distressing. Thankfully, there are plenty of excellent ways to find comfort and encouragement. Seeking information and online support can be a helpful step for some. 

Expressing your concerns and anxieties about your MRI results to your healthcare provider is important for your emotional well-being and for ensuring you receive the support and information you need. Frame your concerns as personal feelings and experiences rather than making accusatory or confrontational statements. 

It’s OK to seek reassurance from your provider. Let your provider know if you need emotional support and ask for resources or recommendations for counseling or support groups if necessary. Check out these online resources that offer support for people just like you: 

  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA): The ADAA offers resources and information about anxiety disorders, including health anxiety. You can find articles, webinars, and links to support groups.
  • The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): The NIMH provides in-depth information on various mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders. Their resources can help you understand and manage health anxiety.
  • Anxiety.org: This website provides articles and self-help tools to address different forms of anxiety, including health anxiety. It offers tips on managing symptoms and finding support.
  • Mental Health America (MHA): MHA has resources, information, and a screening tool to help you assess your mental health, including anxiety disorders.
  • Online communities: Websites like HealthUnlocked, and PatientsLikeMe have communities where people share their experiences, offer support, and exchange advice.
  • Self-help books: Consider looking for self-help books specifically tailored to anxiety and health anxiety.
  • Mindfulness and relaxation resources: Apps like Calm and Headspace, as well as YouTube channels dedicated to meditation and relaxation, can help you manage anxiety and find moments of calm.
  • Online Support Groups: Look for online support groups specifically focused on health anxiety. Websites like Health Anxiety Support provide a community where individuals can share their experiences and seek advice.

How to schedule an MRI appointment with Us

As stressful as waiting for your MRI results can be, we want to make it as smooth as possible. By booking your brain MRI with American Health Imaging, we will ensure that your comfort and needs will come first.

Reach out to us at American Health Imaging, and we’ll help you schedule an appointment at an imaging center near you, today. 

We’re here to help you get the answers you need.

Frequently asked questions

What is a brain MRI and why might a doctor recommend it?

A brain MRI is a non-invasive imaging technique that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed images of the brain, often recommended by doctors to diagnose and monitor various medical conditions.

During a brain MRI, you will lie on a movable table that slides into a large, tube-shaped magnet, where you’ll remain still for a period of time while images are captured by a technologist.

The timeframe for receiving brain MRI results can vary, but typically, patients can expect to hear back from their healthcare provider within a few days to two weeks.

If you find your MRI results confusing, schedule a follow-up appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss them in detail and ask any clarifying questions.

To have a productive discussion with your provider, come prepared with questions, openly share any symptoms or concerns, and be honest about your anxieties or fears regarding the results.

If additional testing is needed after your MRI, work with your healthcare provider to understand the reasons, prepare for the tests, and ensure you understand the potential implications on your treatment plan.

To seek a second opinion, obtain a copy of your MRI scans and reports, and then consult with another specialist, providing them with all relevant information and ensuring your reasons for seeking an alternate viewpoint are clear.

For managing anxiety related to MRI results, consider discussing your feelings with your healthcare provider, explore professional mental health resources, or investigate online forums and support groups specifically focused on health-related anxiety.