What is an MRI scan?
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses powerful magnet and radio waves together with computer technology to provide very detailed and clear pictures of the body organs and structures. MRI, unlike X-ray and Computed Tomography (CT) scans, does not use ionizing radiation. The images created by MRI have higher resolution and greater details than X-ray imaging and CT scan.
What is an MRI scan used for?
The MRI is capable of creating images that show the differences between healthy and unhealthy body organs and structures. MRI of different body parts help to diagnose diseases and medical conditions. The following are some purposes of MRI for different body parts and structures:
• MRI of the head – Detects cancer tumors, stroke, dementia, diseases involving the protective covering surrounding the nerve fibers in the brain and spine (demyelinating disease), and epilepsy
• MRI of the spine – Detects torn ligaments around joints and spine problems, especially related to the spinal discs, bone and soft tissue tumors, and joint diseases
• MRI of the abdomen and pelvis – Detects and analyze tumors from spleen, kidney, colon, prostate, bladder, and other organs
• Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) – Creates images of the liver, gallbladder, bile duct, pancreas, and pancreatic duct. Detect tumors, infection, and inflammation
• Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) – Creates images of the arteries. Detect abnormal narrowing or abnormal vessel wall dilation that could cause repture
What preparation do I need to do before an MRI scan?
Usually, there is little preparation involved. You need to remove metal objects from your body such as dentures, jewelry, hairclips, because an MRI scan works through strong magnet fields. Please let your doctor or radiologist know if you have any surgical implants, such as screws that fix fractures, surgical clips that repair blood vessels, or a pacemaker. You may also be asked to not eat or drink for a few hours before your scan.
What will happen during an MRI scan?
In some cases, an injection of a special dye may be given into the bloodstream via a vein on the arm. This dye is relatively harmless, and helps to see things in the body more clearly.
You will be asked to lie on a movable bed that will pass through an enclosed tunnel. Stay very still during the scanning, so that images remain sharp and clear. If you have a fear of confined spaces (claustrophobia), you should discuss this with your doctor before going for the scan.
You will be given ear plugs or ear phones to protect your ears as the scanning can be quite noisy. Our MRI technicians will watch you through the glass window in the room next to you. We will be able to hear you at all times and also speak to you over the speakers. The whole procedure takes about 20 to 60 minutes.
What are the risks of doing an MRI scan?
Unlike X-rays and CT scans, MRI does not have any ionizing radiation, thus MRI is a safe and painless medical imaging examination that carries little risks with it.
Although MRI scans are thought to be safe, the long-term effects of strong magnetic fields on a developing baby are not yet known. For this reason, pregnant women are advised to only have an MRI scan if it is urgent and absolutely necessary.
On rare occasions, the special dye used can cause an allergic reaction. The chances of this dye causing damage to the kidneys are much less than the special dye used in CT scans. Therefore, MRI is sometimes helpful in patients with kidney problems.
Do follow the instructions from your doctor, nurse, and radiologist closely to prepare and care for yourself after the procedure. Ask them questions if you have any concerns.