Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive, radiation-free scanning technology that uses radio waves and magnetic fields to produce clear and detailed three-dimensional images of nearly any organ or hard and soft tissues in the body. MRI can be used to identify or precisely locate an injury or abnormality, to scan for developing problems or analyze damage from previous trauma, and to aid in the planning of surgery.

MRI produces images of any area of the body and can be an invaluable tool for detecting tumors, infection, cancer and damage to the eye and inner ear, nervous system, heart and blood vessels, joint and musculoskeletal systems, major organs and male and female reproductive systems.

Who is this procedure for?

MRI is commonly used to diagnose or monitor tumors, coronary artery disease, liver disease or vascular disease, or to determine the cause of pelvic pain and other abnormalities within the body. It is most often performed on the organs of the chest, abdomen and pelvis, along with the reproductive organs and blood vessels throughout the body.

How should I prepare for this procedure?

During the MRI procedure, patients may be asked to swallow or be injected with a contrast material to provide a clearer view of the targeted organs. You may also be asked not to eat or drink for several hours before the test. It is important to follow the directions provided by your doctor, as each MRI procedure can be different.

It is important to inform your doctor of any medical or electronic devices within your body, as they may interfere with the results of the exam. Patients with an implanted defibrillator or cochlear implant should not undergo the MRI procedure.

What happens during the procedure?

Unlike x-rays, radioisotopes and CT scanning, MRI uses radiofrequency waves, making it safer than other methods that use radiation. Radio waves detect differences in water concentration and distribution in various body tissues. Each scan can last from two to 15 minutes, but up to six images may be needed for a proper diagnosis, for an average total exam time of about 15 to 45 minutes.

During the procedure, al electric current is passed through wire coils in the MRI unit, which produces the magnetic field. The patient lies on a moveable exam table that is slowly moved into the magnet area of the MRI unit. A contrast material may be injected or swallowed before the procedure to produce clearer images.

What will I experience during the procedure?

People with claustrophobia may feel uncomfortable in a traditional or “closed” MRI unit because they must lie still inside a narrow tunnel within the scanning magnet. Sedatives may be given for patients who experience difficulty in the confined space. However, newer, more open units are being used to alleviate this problem; they may only partially enclose the patient (“short bore”) or may be open on all sides.

What are the benefits of this procedure?

The MRI procedure is an effective diagnostic tool that does not involve any exposure to radiation, and is the only procedure to produce images of the hard and soft tissue within the body. This exam is able to diagnose a wide range of conditions, including cancer, heart disease, vascular disease and many other abnormalities throughout the body.

This procedure is safe for nearly all patients and is constantly being improved so that it is more comfortable for patients with claustrophobia.

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