Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

What Is Magnetic Resonance Imaging?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic imaging exam that produces clear, detailed pictures of your bones, blood vessels, and internal organs using radio waves and a powerful magnetic field. When the results are compiled on a computer, they create cross-sections of your body, which allows doctors to examine you in much greater detail then they would using an x-ray. Though MRIs can examine your bone structure, its most commonly used to detect maladies in soft tissues, such as ligaments, cartilage, and muscles.

When Is It Used?

Radiologists use MRIs to diagnose a wide range of conditions in the head, chest, abdomen, bones, and joints, such as aneurysms, artery calcification, cirrhosis, torn ligaments, and arthritis. It is also used to help diagnose infections, tumors, and disorders of the eyes and ears.

What Happens During an MRI Procedure?

You will lie down on a cushioned bed that will guide you into the MRI machine - a donut-shaped apparatus open on both ends. 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 Is an Open MRI?

An open MRI machine consists of two magnetic rings that the patient passes through, but do not enclose the patient. They are designed for patients whose weight or height prohibits regular MRIs, and for patients who feel anxious when they are enclosed in small spaces. If you would prefer to receive an open MRI, you can request one from your health care provider before coming into the MRI center. 

What Are the Benefits and Risks?

Though the cost of MRI scans is higher than other diagnostic exams, such as x-ray or ultrasound, it is able to assess internal organs that are difficult or impossible to see with any other technique. The procedure is entirely painless and because it does not use radiation, it poses no risk to your health.