Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a special diagnostic test that produces very clear, detailed pictures of internal organs and structures in your body. The test uses a powerful magnetic field, radio waves and a computer to create images in cross-section. While an X-ray is very good at showing bones, an MRI lets your health care provider see structures made of soft tissue such as ligaments and cartilage and organs such as your eyes, brain, and heart.
When is it used?
Health care providers use MRI to diagnose problems in the brain and spinal cord, to see the size and location of tumors, and to examine joints and soft tissues. MRI is also helpful in diagnosing diseases and disorders of the eyes and ears. Injuries show up well on an MRI. For example, an MRI may show whether you have torn ligaments or torn cartilage in your knee and help your health care provider decide whether you need surgery. It is also useful for injuries involving the shoulder, back or neck.
What happens during an MRI procedure?
You will lie down on a cushioned bed that moves into a donut-shaped apparatus that is open on both ends. If you get nervous when you are in small closed spaces, you can opt to have an Open MRI, which is the same exam but not in an enclosed space. Talk to your health care provider about this before you have your MRI. You will have to be very still during the procedure so the pictures will not be blurry. Most MRIs take between 30 and 60 minutes. You will hear loud knocking and a whirring sound while the pictures are taken. You can wear earplugs or listen to music so that the noise doesn’t sound so loud. When the test is over you may go home. Your referring doctor will schedule a visit with you to discuss the results of your test.
What are the benefits and risks of an MRI procedure?
An MRI is able to visualize internal organs that are difficult or impossible to see with other diagnostic exams. There is no radiation, the exam is painless, and there are no harmful side effects.
What are my options?
MRI scanners come in different magnet field strengths measured in teslas or “T”, usually between 0.5T and 3.0T. The higher the T, the greater the image quality, but too much detail can be unwanted for certain parts of the anatomy. MRI scanners also come in varying sizes including open and wide-bore. We offer patients advanced MRI options, in more imaging centers than most other providers. Talk to your doctor to determine which MRI is best for you: