What is an MRI?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, is a truly revolutionary advancement in medicine. The science behind this valuable technology is rather complicated and represents the intersection of theoretical physics and its practical application to image the human body. MRI scanners do not use X-rays or any other form of radiation. Instead, they use very strong, rotating magnets to align the spins of the protons in the atoms within your body in a certain direction. Once the protons are all spinning along the same axis, the magnets switch polarity, altering the axis of your protons’ spins. The changing of spin direction gives off radio waves that can detected to render the position of those atoms in an image which our radiologist can read – we know, cool, right?

MRI is a diagnostic tool that allows radiologists to visualize tissues of the body that cannot be seen using conventional X-rays. The machine produces a series of cross-sectional pictures from different angles: front to back, top to bottom, side to side, and any orientation in between. In addition to the directional cross-sectional images, MRIs can distinguish specific kinds of tissue, like fat, muscle, and bone, and can detect abnormalities within them. MRI technology has advanced the field of diagnostic radiology and has radically changed the way we treat injuries and illnesses. MRI allows us to accurately and quickly detect disease and can help to optimize patient care.

Almost all areas of the body may undergo an MRI scan to improve diagnoses. MRIs are commonly used in the case of sports injuries to muscles and bones, but also crucial instruments for diagnosing brain and organ conditions. Our scanner can even look within blood vessels to diagnose vascular illness.

Because MRIs use intensely strong magnets to glean images, patients with any kind of metallic implant anywhere in their body should not have an MRI unless their physician is fully aware of the device and has approved the MRI procedure. Under no circumstances should a patient who has a pacemaker have an MRI.

Your doctor may ask you to get your MRI with a contrast agent to highlight specific organs and blood vessels to help the radiologist better visualize the area. Contrast agents in carry a low risk of allergic reaction and cause little discomfort for most people. If you are over 60 or have kidney disease, we will need a blood test beforehand to make sure the contrast will be safe for your body. If your doctor has determined that this procedure will enhance your MRI scan results, the technologist will place an IV in your arm prior to your going into the scan with contrast agent in it.

The MRI Process

Before Your MRI

  • You should arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment. This allows time for you to complete any necessary paperwork, change your clothes for your exam and answer questions from our technologist about your medical history before we start your scan.
  • For almost every kind of scan you may eat or drink anything you like before the test. If you are having your abdomen scanned, we may ask you to fast for a few hours before the test.
  • If you are wearing anything metallic, such as jewelry, dentures, eyeglasses, hearing aids, watched etc., we may ask you to remove them
  • You should not have your credit cards in your pockets during the scan because the MRI magnet can affect the magnetic strip on the card. Patients who are having a brain / head scan should avoid wearing heavy make-up as some brands contain metal.


During Your MRI

  • The scanner will make a knocking sound as it takes pictures of your body. Your technologist will offer you headphones to listen to the radio (or music of your choice, if you bring a CD or iPod!) If you would prefer not to listen to music, we can give you earplugs to decrease the loudness of the sounds. Voice communication is available at all times through an intercom.
  • Each MRI scan is tailored to each patient's needs, so the scanning time varies with the exam and the patients. After all of the images are taken, we may ask you to wait a few moments while the radiologist reviews all the images so we can be sure we have exactly what your doctor wants.


After Your MRI

  • After your MRI, there are no restrictions or limits on what you can do, eat, or where you can travel. You are totally free to go about your day.


Remember

All MRIs are not created equal. Trust the expertise of our technologists among those administering the exams and the radiologists reading them.