Magnetic resonance Imaging (MRI) uses radio waves and magnets to give detailed pictures of the organs and tissues of the human body. These images can be seen in the 3 dimensions (3-D).
How is MRI unlike other tests?
- MRI does not use ionizing radiation, unlike X-rays or CT scans.
- Since the images are clearer than a CT scan, an MRI shows the difference between normal and diseased tissues.
- MRI does not need a dye for contrast, unlike a CT scan. Thus, this is a better option if you have kidney problems.
- An MRI can be adjusted to show different types of tissue, thus helping the doctor to make diagnosis more efficiently.
When is MRI used?
An MRI can be tuned to answer almost any critical question. It can show blood vessels. Lymph nodes, masses and cystic structures. If an MRI spots a mass, it can clarify whether it is a hollow cystic mass or a solid one. An MRI can show clear 3-D images of its shape. Based on the above images, a urologist or a radiologist can see if a mass is cancerous or benign (non-cancerous).
What Is The Procedure?
- This procedure is done in a hospital radiology department or in a healthcare provider’s office by a technician, supervised by a doctor.
- The patient will be asked to lie down on a narrow table with your head placed in a padded cradle or pillow. This table is then slid into a large tunnel-like tube in a scanner, and asked to breathe quietly and normally while the body remains still.
- Once the person is inside the large hollow magnet, radio waves are passed through, this energy is directed to the water molecules in the body, exciting them and then relaxing the protons in water molecules.
- The MRI reads the energy from the water molecules and builds a 3-D image of the different types of tissue.
- MRI often involves taking sets of images, each lasting for about 2 to 15 mins.
- In cases where a person has anxiety for being in closed areas for a long time, they would be given a drug before the procedure to relax the mind.
- The technician will be able to talk to you during the procedure of the MRI through an intercom.
- While the scanner is working, there would be loud noises coming from the walls of the scanner, and earplugs will be given in order to solve the problem.
- In order to get clearer images, the doctor might recommend an IV placed for gadolinium contrast.
What Are The Risks?
If you are generally healthy, there will be little or no risk during MRI.
MRI cannot be done if you have any metal inside your body like:
- Metal hip/knee/joint replacements
- Cardiac pacemaker/defibrillator or other implanted devices
- Brain aneurysm clips/coils
- Ear implants
- MRI does not work very well in the urinary tract. Its signals will not show calcification in soft tissue and bladder abnormalities.
- MRI does not show bones clearly, thus it is less useful if the doctor wants to find out if cancer has spread to the bone.
- MRI is useful when gadolinium contrast is added, thus giving detailed results of soft tissue than CT scans.
- This contrast should not be used if you have kidney or liver problems.
After the Test
The whole test takes about 30 to 60 minutes, after which you can go back home to your normal daily activities.
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