Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a computer-based diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a large magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of the internal structures in your body to detect any abnormalities. It is particularly useful for imaging the soft tissues which are not well visualized on X-rays.
Magnetic resonance imaging is used for the diagnosis of various medical conditions such as:
- Brain anomalies
- Spinal cord injury
- Nerve damage
- Multiple sclerosis
- Eye problems
- Bone infections
- Heart ailments
- Damage to blood vessels
- Uterine fibroids
It can also be used to monitor your response and recovery after a particular treatment.
Preparation for Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Before the MRI, you should inform your doctor:
- If you have any health conditions
- If you are pregnant
- If you recently had surgery
- If you have any metal implants or materials in your body
You may be advised against having the procedure under those conditions.
Magnetic resonance imaging does not require much preparation.
- You can continue your ongoing medications unless instructed otherwise by your doctor.
- You are required to wear loose-fitting clothes or will be asked to change into a patient gown.
- Remove any jewelry or other metal items prior to the procedure.
A typical MRI machine is a tunnel-shaped tube with a table that slides through it and both ends open. It is surrounded by a strong magnet.
- You are instructed to lie on your back on the sliding table that will move into the open tube.
- If you are claustrophobic, sedative medication may be administered to keep you calm during the procedure.
- A contrast dye, usually gadolinium, may be injected to improve the visualization of certain structures.
- The MRI machine generates a strong magnetic field and radio waves.
- Protons in the water molecules of your body respond to the magnetic field and radio waves by realigning themselves. They generate signals which are picked up by a detector and processed to create the images.
- Injection of contrast dye helps visualize certain internal structures more clearly.
- During the scanning procedure, you may hear loud tapping sounds which is normal.
- The MRI scan may last for 15 to 90 minutes depending on the body part being imaged.
You can resume your regular activities immediately, if you were not sedated. Otherwise, you may need some time for recovery until the medication has worn off and to check if you have any side effects to the contrast agent.
Risks and Complications
MRI does not use radiation and is quite a safe procedure. Certain people may feel claustrophobic during the procedure for which medication can be provided.
Some people may develop complications from the use of contrast dye which can be treated with medication. These are rare and may include:
- Allergic reaction such as burning or itching
- Redness or swelling at the injection site due to leakage of the contrast
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a computer-based diagnostic procedure that uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to obtain detailed images of the internal structures in your body. It is an important tool to detect any abnormalities, especially of the soft tissues which are not well captured on regular X-rays. MRI scans are often used for visualizing the brain, spinal cord, heart, and musculoskeletal system. The procedure is safe and does not require a hospital stay.