MRI (MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING): WHAT, WHY, AND HOW?
MRI is a test to see specific anatomy and physiology inside the human body. Developed in the 1970s and 1980s, it is a valuable diagnostic tool for organs, blood vessels, joints, nerves, and other tissues, because it makes more comprehensive pictures of structures and their relationships than do X-ray, CT scan (Computed Tomography), and diagnostic ultrasound.
This process uses a strong magnetic field, radio waves, and computer technology to create a detailed image of a region in the body that is being studied. It does not use x-rays. Sometimes a doctor will order contrast to be used with the MRI. A dye is injected into the body to highlight and distinguish certain structures.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging can show the following:
- Brain tumors, vessel aneurysms, damage from stroke.
- Heart valve abnormalities, damage to lungs and heart.
- Problems in the abdomen, such as stomach, intestine, liver, spleen.
- Bone, joint and spinal issues, such as checking for torn ligaments, tendons, pinched nerves, spinal stenosis, tumors, and vertebral disc pathologies like bulging and herniation. In the case of sciatic pain down the legs, this procedure can identify the location of nerve irritation, providing critical information for remedy. Additionally, if a fracture is not seen on plain-film radiography, a magnetic resonance imaging can often detect it.
In Magnetic Resonance Imaging, hydrogen atoms absorb and emit radio frequency energy. This causes pulses of radio waves to excite the “nuclear spin,” and images are formed based on the different relaxation properties of the hydrogen atoms in various structures. These hydrogen atoms are prevalent in the human body, especially in water and fat, which make up the majority of the body. So, MRIs are essentially detailed maps of where water and fat are concentrated in the body.
In preparation for getting one, you should remove all metals from the body. The powerful magnet can pull on and shift metal objects. If you have a pacemaker or other metallic objects in your body, you should not get an MRI.
These are typically done in a narrow tube, often called “the igloo,” which may pose a problem for people with claustrophobia; therefore, a mild sedative taken before going to the clinic is generally a good way to avoid a possible episode of heightened anxiety. The experience takes from 30 to 90 minutes. Some imaging centers have purchased an open-MRI machine, making the experience more pleasant for some people. MRIs take longer and are louder with clicking sounds than getting a CT scan.
Some facts about Magnetic Resonance Imaging are as follows:
- MRI is widely used in hospitals and clinics to determine stages of cancer and many other medical diagnoses.
- MRI scanning uses magnetism, radio waves, and a computer to produce images of body structures.
- MRI scanning is painless and does not involve x-ray radiation.
MRI scan is a very accurate method of disease detection throughout the body. It is the next level of testing after less expensive imaging has been inconclusive.
Neurosurgeons use MRI scans to assess brain anatomy and also to evaluate the condition of the spinal cord after a trauma.
MRI: WHAT, WHY, AND HOW?
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