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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)


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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is one of the most powerful tools physicians use to diagnose a variety of conditions throughout the body. Examples of the body parts that can be evaluated include the brain, spine, abdominal and pelvic organs, bones and joints, among others. MRI can help your physician make confident diagnoses or monitor your clinical condition over time.

How Does It Work?

MRI utilizes powerful magnetic fields and radio waves to generate detailed cross-sectional images of the human body. There is no x-ray, or ionizing radiation, involved. Regions of the body that MRI images particularly well are the brain, spine, muscles and joints, and internal organs.

MRI is non-invasive and painless. During the procedure, the patient lies comfortably on the scanner as the machine produces a thorough cross-sectional image on the computer.


Do I Need An MRI Scan?

An MRI scan can be performed to detect problems in different parts of the body. Your primary physician will refer you to an imaging specialist as a part of your treatment plan.

You may be asked to undergo a scan to assess the inside of your body if you have the following problems:

  • Brain disease (e.g. stroke, tumors, etc.)
  • Vascular disease (e.g. atherosclerosis, aneurysms)
  • Spinal disease and arthritis
  • Heart disease
  • Breast cancer
  • Bone and joint pain and/or injuries
  • Liver, gallbladder, pancreatic, and biliary disease
  • Lesions of the kidneys
  • Disorders of the prostate, uterus, or ovaries
  • Gastrointestinal disease, including colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases

The Advantages of MRI

An MRI scan is the imaging study of choice for particular body parts, including the brain, spine, and joints. It can also be used as a problem solver for diagnosing disorders of the internal organs or the breasts. It may be utilized to clarify abnormal findings seen on other exams.

One of the major advantages of MRI is that it does not utilize ionizing (x-ray) radiation. It can be a safe alternative to CT imaging for certain conditions. MRI is also a painless procedure.

FAQ and the Experience: Everything You Need To Know

What preparations do I have to make before an MRI scan?

Because of the strong magnets, you will be expected to remove any metal accessories or loose metal objects, including piercings, dentures, and hearing aids. Some scans require fasting beforehand; you will be instructed if this is necessary.

An MRI scan lasts between 15 minutes to an hour. You’ll be expected to lay still for most of the exam. Excess motion can result in blurry and inaccurate results. Patients with uncontrolled movement disorders (e.g. tremors) might be referred to a different type of imaging study.

What are the limitations of an MRI scan?

Most implanted cardiac pacemakers and defibrillators are not compatible with MRI, and may require alternative methods of diagnosis.

Is it safe for pregnant women to undergo an MRI?

It is very important to notify your physician and technologist if you are pregnant, prior to your examination. MRI poses no know risk to the fetus. However, intravenous gadolinium (MRI contrast) can pose a risk to the fetus and should NOT be administered to pregnant patients. MRI requests for pregnant patients should be reviewed on an individual, case-by-case basis, and the need for the exam should be weighed against the potential risks.

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