All About Magnetic Resonance Imaging

July 26, 2012 0 Comments

Magnetic Resonance Imaging–commonly shortened and referred to as MRI–is an advanced method used to capture images of organs and other internal structures of the body. Using a combination of magnetism and radio waves, an MRI scan takes precise, digital, more advanced photographs than other forms of imaging technologies, such as the x-ray. For this reason, it is used to identify and treat an array of injuries and illnesses. Why have an MRI? MRI scans are conducted for any number of reasons. If you have had head trauma, an MRI can reveal damage to the brain, bleeding and even nerve damage. They’re used to identify stroke damage and evaluate proper functioning of the eyes and ears. MRI scans are essential in locating damage to the heart or lungs, including cancers. They’re used to check arteries, veins, vessels and other aspects of the circulatory system. Exactly, these are looked at using magnetic resonance angiogram, a specialized form of MRI. For your bones, an MRI scan can help identify problems such as tumors, arthritis, conditions affecting the marrow, density issues and even whether or not a bone is fractured or broken if an x-ray is inconclusive. How is an MRI performed and what you need to do to prepare?

While open MRI machines are now used in numerous facilities, the traditional and more common approach is to have the patient lie in a magnetized space while images are taken. Sometimes, straps or belts may be used to constrict movement. Your MRI technologist or doctor will explain the exact proceedings as they will differ between patients.

Many patients feel claustrophobic receiving an MRI scan, and in fact, if you know beforehand you are uncomfortable or anxious in tight, confined spaces, alert your healthcare providers. This is one thing you can do to prepare for your MRI. Others include discussing any medications you are taking–you will ingest a contrast material that will make the images more defined and helpful, so it’s important your doctor knows if you have any medicine allergies; removing any metal or telling your technologist about any plates, screws or other metallic objects you may have as they can affect the magnets; or if you’re pregnant, or there’s a chance you may be pregnant. You will be asked specific questions and given preparation instructions to ensure the procedure goes as successfully as possible.

Does an MRI scan hurt and what are the known risks?

An MRI should be painless. Some people will become uncomfortable because of the small space or because they are required to lie still for a long period of time. Very few known risks are involved in the MRI process. Tattoos’ pigments may cause the skin to feel slightly irritated, and sites where patches were used–such as those for smoking cessation or as contraception–may burn slightly. Some people who were given the contrast agent also report fluctuations in body temperature.

What basic facts and considerations should you know about magnetic resonance imaging?

While it costs more than other forms of imaging technology, it is highly effective in identifying a very large range of problems and conditions.

If you are claustrophobic, you may want to research what facilities offer open MRIs. While the technology is available, not every hospital or care center has one.

There are things that can interfere with an MRI or make them dangerous. If you are pregnant, it’s paramount you let your technologist know. Because of the intense magnet used, any metal on or in the body should be listed.

Because of the traditional MRI machine’s space restrictions, obese individuals may need to seek alternate testing or find a location with an open MRI.

Magnetic resonance imaging allows for your healthcare providers to better see what problems or conditions are affecting your health. Combined with other forms of imaging technologies, it is an invaluable tool used to diagnose and treat an array of illnesses, both large and small. Be sure to ask questions, follow pre-procedure instructions carefully and have a solid understanding of what to expect before entering into the process.

If you have questions about MRI technology, contact a medical professional – such as those at Macon’s VIRA – to get answers.

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