What to Expect from Prostate Imaging

VCU Medical Center is one of the few places in the United States where comprehensive MR imaging and MR guided biopsies of the prostate are performed.  Finding prostate cancer is no longer a guessing game.  With Advanced Prostate MR Imaging, it’s all about knowing, not guessing.

Visit VCU Medical Center’s state of the art facility at Stony Point Imaging Center.  Complimentary parking, conveniently located directly in front of the Stony Point Medical Park Building.

Know You're Getting the Best Possible Treatment. Experience, Leading-Edged Technology and Convenience is what makes us different at VCU Advanced Prostate Imaging.

When you arrange an appointment for either a MR of the prostate or a MR guided biopsy with VCU Advanced Prostate Imaging, someone from our team will contact you in advance to review everything you need to know before your appointment and send you any paperwork you need to complete.  If you have questions at any time, you can call one of these numbers depending the procedure and location of your appointment.

MR Imaging at Stony Point 804-237-6645
MR guided biopsy at Main Hospital 804-628-7651

How Do I Prepare for an MRI Exam or for an MR Guided Biopsy?

You will receive specific instructions from the nurse who calls you to review the paperwork, test preparations and contraindications of your MRI.  Read the instructions carefully, complete and bring all the paperwork with you when you come to your appointment.

If you have claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces) or anxiety, you may want to ask your physician for a prescription for a mild sedative prior to the scheduled examination.

Jewelry and other accessories should be left at home if possible, or removed prior to the MRI scan. Because they can interfere with the magnetic field of the MRI unit, metal and electronic objects are not allowed in the exam room. In most cases, an MRI exam is safe for patients with metal implants, except for a few types.

What Happens During the Procedure?

Your MRI exam may involve the use of an endorectal coil, a thin wire covered with a latex balloon, placed inside the rectum. Placing this coil into the rectum close to the prostate helps generate more detailed images from the prostate and surrounding structures.

MRI examinations may require the patient to receive an injection of contrast material into the bloodstream. If an injection is required, you will be asked if you have any allergies, such as allergy to the MR contrast material. The contrast material most commonly used for an MRI exam is called gadolinium. Because gadolinium does not contain iodine, it can be used safely in patients with iodine contrast allergies.

It is important that you remain still while the images are being recorded, which is typically only a few seconds to a few minutes at a time. You will know when images are being recorded because you will hear tapping or thumping sounds when the coils that generate the radiofrequency pulses are activated. You will be able to relax between imaging sequences, but will be asked to maintain your position as much as possible.

When the contrast material is injected, it is normal to feel coolness and a flushing sensation for a minute or two. The intravenous needle may cause you some discomfort when it is inserted.  Once the needle is removed, you may experience some bruising. There is also a very small chance of irritation of your skin at the site of the IV tube insertion.

Who Interprets the Results and How Do I Get Them?

Highly trained radiologists at VCU Medical Center’s Department of Radiology will interpret your results and communicate them to your physician.  Professor Yu and his colleagues at VCU Medical Center are highly specialized in the interpretation of prostate  MR imaging, providing you with the greatest level of expertise.

What Are the Risks of an MRI Exam?

  • A prostate MRI examination poses almost no risk to the average patient when appropriate safety guidelines are followed. 
  • If sedation is needed, there are risks of excessive sedation. However, the technologist and nurse will monitor your vital signs during the examination to minimize this risk. 
  • Although the strong magnetic field is not harmful in itself, implanted medical devices that contain metal may malfunction or cause problems during an MRI exam.
  • There is a very slight risk of an allergic reaction if contrast material is injected. Such reactions usually are mild and easily controlled by medication.
  • If you experience allergic symptoms, a radiologist or other physician will be available for immediate assistance.
  • Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis is a rare, complication of MRI believed to be caused by the multiple injection of high doses of gadolinium contrast material in patients with very poor kidney function.

Why Your Doctor May Refer You for Advanced Prostate Imaging at VCU

There are several reasons why your doctor would like to have  Prostate MR Imaging  for you.  Advanced Prostate MR Imaging provides the best characterization of disease processes of prostate including prostate cancer in individual patients.  At VCU Medical Center, the list of indications for prostate MRI at VCU Medical Center include:

  1. Staging – Accurate staging of prostate cancer is crucial when choosing the appropriate therapy.  MR imaging with endorectal coil has been shown to be accurate in staging of prostate cancer, and in detecting tumor spread outside the prostate gland.
  2. Improving biopsy targeting –Traditionally, up to 66% of initial TRUS biopsies are unable to locate a tumor.  The information from a prostate MRI can help urologists perform a more targeted biopsy to increase the likelihood of a positive biopsy yield.  Increasingly urologists are considering prostate MRI pre-biopsy.
  3. Preoperative roadmap – Surgeons are increasingly using MR imaging, prior to minimally invasive and robotic surgery, to obtain a roadmap of the location of the tumor as well as the relationship between the tumor and the surrounding important structures.  This roadmap helps guide the surgeons as they remove the cancer to preserve essential delicate arteries and nerves that help maintain urinary continence and sexual function.
  4. Detection – For patients who have had multiple negative TRUS biopsies but elevated or rising PSA levels suggesting cancer is present, prostate MRI is used to detect where the tumor is.  Then, a MRI guided prostate biopsy at VCU Medical Center or a repeat TRUS biopsy by the referring urologists will be performed to the target regions.  This combination will result in a very high success rate.
  5. Finding recurrent cancer – After a patient has undergone radiation therapy or radical prostatectomy with recurrent elevation of PSA, advanced MR imaging has proven to be useful in detection and localization of recurrent cancer.
  6. Active surveillance – Most prostate cancers generally grow very slowly.  Patients who have low grade tumors or other medical conditions may wish to postpone treatment.  MR imaging is an excellent noninvasive tool to determine which patient should be on active surveillance to monitor tumor growth over time.
VCU Department of Radiology Virginia Commonwealth University VCU Medical Center