MRI, CT and PET Scan Times


hourglass[1] To plan for your MRI, CT or PET scan, it may help to better undertand the how short or long it takes for an MRI, CT or PET scan.

The scan time, the time you are actually in the machine as it acquires images, depends on a number of factors. Namely, the type of test, area of the body being imaged and if a contrast agent is recommended. Prior to the actual scan, patient registration and meeting with the technologist takes approximately 30 minutes.

Here are typical timelines for your scan:

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan times will take 30 to 40 minutes for the majority of scans. That is, brain, knee, spine and shoulder. However, if the study requires a contrast agent your scan time can be 50-60 minutes. Prostate and breast MRI scans  take 60 to 80 minutes.

CT (computerized tomography) scan times are often shorter than those for an MRI. A CT scan without contrast (head, sinus, orbits, abdomen, pelvis, cervical, thoracic, lumbar and dental scans) take approximately 15 minutes. CT studies with contrast of the chest, pelvis, head or neck take approximately 30 minutes. Whereas, aortic contrast studies may take up to 45 minutes. Most cardiac CT studies will take 60 minutes.

PET (positron emission tomography) scan times take longer than either MRI or CT scans because the injection of a radioisotope take 45 to 1.5 hours to travel through the body. The typical scan (or image acquisition) time for brain and oncology related scans is 30 to 60 minutes. Consequently, a complete PET scan customarily takes 2 hours. Sometimes, an additional 20 minutes of imaging time is necessary for scans related to melanoma and sarcoma.

I hope these guidelines help you plan ahead for your scan.

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