Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, uses strong magnet and radio waves to provide clear and detailed diagnostic images of internal body organs and tissues. MRI is a valuable tool for the diagnosis of a broad range of conditions, including:
- joint and musculoskeletal disorders
- heart and vascular disease (cardiac MRI)
MRI allows evaluation of many body structures that may not be as visible with other diagnostic imaging methods. One special feature of MRI is its ability to obtain views of the body from any angle or direction, so that complex anatomy can be demonstrated from the most revealing perspectives. Another characteristic of MRI is its ability to characterize fine differences amongst tissues, especially when gadolinium contrast is used.
Imaging of the Musculoskeletal System: MRI is often used to study the knee, ankle, foot, shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand. MRI is also a highly accurate method for evaluation of soft tissue structures such as tendons and ligaments, which are seen in great detail. Even subtle injuries are easily detected. In addition, MRI is used for the diagnosis of spinal problems including disc herniation, spinal stenosis, and spinal tumors.
Imaging for Cancer & Functional Disorders: Organs of the chest and abdomen such as the liver, lungs, kidney, bowel and other abdominal organs can be examined in great detail with MRI. This aids in the diagnosis and evaluation of tumors and functional disorders. In the early diagnosis of breast cancer, MRI is an alternative to traditional x-ray mammography. Furthermore because there is no radiation exposure is involved, MRI is often used for examination of the male and female reproductive systems or to follow-up patients who need sequential imaging over months.
Imaging of the Heart and Blood Vessels: MRI of the heart, aorta, coronary arteries, and blood vessels is a tool for diagnosing coronary artery disease and other heart problems. MRI can look at damaged heart muscle with gadolinium contrast as well as quantify blood flow across intracardiac shunts. MRI can also image blood vessels without gadolinium contrast, which is extremely helpful in patients who have poor kidney function or who have severe allergies.
Depending on how many images are needed, the exam generally takes 15 to 45 minutes. However, very detailed studies may take longer.
- You must lie down on a sliding table and be comfortably positioned. The body area to be examined will be placed on a “coil,” a special type of MR antenna designed to capture the images we are generating.
- Even though the technologist must leave the room, you will be able to communicate with them at any time using an intercom.
- If necessary, a friend or family member may stay in the room with you during the exam.
- You will be asked remain still during the actual imaging process. However, between sequences, which last between 2-15 minutes, slight movement is allowed.
- Depending on the part of the body being examined, a contrast material may be used to enhance the visibility of certain tissues or blood vessels. A small needle is placed in your arm or hand vein and a saline solution IV drip will run through the intravenous line to prevent clotting. About two-thirds of the way through the exam, the contrast material is injected.