What is an MRI?
How Does an MRI Help Me and My Medical Team?
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is one form of imaging used by physicians to obtain clinically useful diagnostic information. Incorporating advanced technology, MRI produces images of anatomy without the use of radiation required with other imaging modalities such as x-ray or computed tomography. MRI combines the physical properties of strong magnetic fields with radio waves to produce computer-generated soft tissue images within any plane of the body. This popular imaging technique can be used as a primary diagnostic tool to provide a quick and accurate diagnosis for your physician. In some situations, this procedure can reduce the need for further diagnostic procedures or invasive procedures, such as exploratory surgery, that may have associated complications.
MRI is a noninvasive procedure with no known side or after effects. The procedure is painless. In fact, you won’t see or feel anything. A knocking sound will be heard from the machine which is simply the imaging process in operation.
The benefits of magnetic resonance imaging are many, and through ongoing research, new applications are being continually developed. The procedure is used for all parts of the body and is effective in the clinical evaluation of the following conditions:
• Brain disorders
• Traumatic injuries
• Eye abnormalities
• Spine diseases
• Tumor detection
• Liver and other abdominal diseases
• Knee and shoulder injuries
• Musculoskeletal disorders
• Facial/Neck abnormalities
• Blood flow and vessel disorders
How Does an MRI Operate?
MRI images are formed when signals emitted by body tissue are processed by software and turned into clinical images. These signals are generated using a safe magnetic field in combination with radio waves of a specific frequency. Different tissue characteristics are translated into different contrast levels on the image.
A typical procedure averages 30 minutes or longer, depending on the type of information required by your physician. You can help to make your images as clean as possible by relaxing and remaining still during the exam. Some patients even fall asleep during the MRI exam.
What Do I Have to Do to Prepare for an MRI Exam?
No special preparation is required prior to the MRI exam. Some exams may require fasting for four hours. Continue to take any medication prescribed by your doctor unless otherwise directed.
Prior to entering the scan room, you will be asked to leave those items not compatible with a magnetic field in a safe place outside the scan room. Some of those items are:
• Credit cards
• Hearing aids
• Hair pins
• Other metal objects
You may also be asked to remove make-up and dentures. You will be asked to change into a hospital gown for your exam. Other items that may be incompatible are implants and similar items. Check with your physician or MRI technologist if you have had any brain, ear or eye surgeries or have any of the following:
• Neurostimulator (TENS unit)
• Metal implants
• Intrauterine device (IUD), etc.
• Aneurysm clips
• Surgical staples
• Implanted drug infusion device
• Foreign metal objects in the eye
• Permanent eyeliner
Once you are situated on the table, make sure you are comfortable so that it is easy to remain still for the duration of the examination. Breathe normally. Once the examination has begun, you will hear a knocking sound that represents changes in the magnetic field. This is a normal part of the imaging process. At the conclusion of the exam, the technologist will assist you out of the scan room.
If you are pregnant, please notify your physician.
Are All MRIs the Same?
No. There are several different types of MRI machines available ranging in different sizes and magnetic field strengths. A variety of MRI machines provides patients and physicians choices in their imaging options based on different needs, such as claustrophobia or specific high-field imaging requirements. Talk to your doctor about which MRI is right for you.
What Else Do I Need to Know?
- Please inform the technologist if you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant.
- You will be asked to wear a gown during the exam. You will be asked to remove undergarments that have any metal fasteners.
- Guidelines about eating and drinking before an MRI exam vary. Follow your daily routine unless told otherwise.
- You will be asked if you have any known allergies to contrast.
- Please let the technologist know if you have any serious health problems. You can not be given contrast if you have certain health conditions, such as kidney disease.
- Jewelry and other metal objects can not be worn during the exam. Please try to leave them at home if possible.
- You should tell the technologist if you have any implanted medical devices or anything metal in your body. These may interfere with the exam or be dangerous to have an MRI because of the strength of the MRI magnet.
What Are the Benefits and Risks?
The benefits of MRI of the Abdomen/Pelvis:
- No radiation exposure
- Allows for accurate diagnosis for a broad range of condition and diseases including heart disease, cancer and muscular and bone disorders
Risks you should be aware of:
- Implanted medical devices that contain metal may malfunction or cause problems during an MRI exam
- There is a very slight risk of an allergic reaction if contrast is injected. Our highly skilled physicians are on hand for immediate assistance should you need assistance
Where Can I Get This Exam?
MRI is performed at the locations: