Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
MRI or magnetic resonance imaging, is a type of medical test (imaging technique), which is required to take pictures of the inside of the body to diagnose a condition or check on the progress of a medical condition or treatment. This type of imaging creates detailed images of the internal tissues and organs of the body using strong radio waves and a magnetic field.
MRI is considered as a safe diagnostic technique. It does not use X-rays.
The machine looks like a giant tube and it allows the doctor to get cross-sectional images of any part of the body. The doctor may also recommend an MRI to get 3-dimensional images that allow them to better view the organs and tissues of the body.
The MRI test may be requested when the doctor thinks that he needs to get information about the body without using invasive (for. e.g. X-rays) means. This type of imaging is commonly used for the brain, spinal cord and bones & joints assessment.
Following are some conditions in which MRI scanning is used:
- Aneurysms (condition affecting blood vessel or heart)
- Multiple sclerosis (a disease of brain)
- Inner ear and eye disorders
- Spinal cord injuries
The doctor may order an MRI of the blood vessels and heart for the following reasons:
- Heart chamber function and size
- To assess heart disease and heart attack damage
- To look for blockages and inflammation in blood vessels
- To look at the movement and thickness of the heart wall
- To look for aorta structural problems
An MRI scan can be also done on the joints and bones for the following reasons:
- To look for joint disorders or abnormalities (e.g. shoulder joint, knee joint)
- To assess the bones for infection
- To look at spinal disc abnormalities
- To see if there are any tumors affecting the soft tissues or bones
Doctors may also order an MRI to get images of the breasts when looking for breast cancer.
An MRI is a generally safe procedure and it is noninvasive. The MRI technician will ask the patient about the following before the MRI test is done:
• Metallic joint prostheses
• An implantable heart defibrillator
• Metal clips
• Shrapnel or bullets
• Artificial heart valves
• A pacemaker
• Cochlear implants
If patient is pregnant, make sure to tell the doctor. The doctor may recommend different type of test done. If patient is getting contrast dye, inform doctor about any existing liver or kidney problems before the test.
There is not a lot of preparation for an MRI. Unless the doctor tells otherwise, the patient can take all medications and eat a normal diet. The patient is asked to remove all metal objects. When the patient arrives at the imaging site, the patient will be asked to wear the hospital gown and need to remove the following:
- Hearing aids
- Hairpins/ Hair clips
- Underwire bras
- Any make up
During an MRI, the patient will lie on the table and the technician will ensure that the patient is comfortable and properly positioned. If the patient is getting a contrast dye, this occurs prior to getting situated on the table. The table then slides into the machine. Some people feel claustrophobic (suffocated or confined) because it is a small space so let the technician know ahead of time if you have trouble with small spaces.
On average, an MRI takes 30 minutes to two hours. The patient must be as still as possible during the scan to ensure that the images are not blurred. Following the test, the patient can perform normal activities.
During the MRI scan, the patient will experience a loud rattling noise from the machine. The technician will provide the head phones or ear protection to minimize the noise.
A radiologist will review the results and create a report that gets sent to the doctor. It can take a few days for this to happen and the doctor will inform when the results are ready.
The doctor will provide the information about the findings and whether or not more testing is necessary.