MRI Provides Detailed Pictures for Accurate Diagnosis
The imaging departments at Franciscan Health often use Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) as a noninvasive test to examine the inside of your body. Unlike a CT scan, which uses radiation, MRI uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed pictures of organs, joints, soft tissue and virtually all other internal body structures. Because it does not use radiation, MRI is a very useful diagnostic tool in today’s medicine. It is also a very useful for patients who require frequent monitoring of a disease process or health issue, such as cancer staging.
How does an MRI work?
Because an MRI scan uses a strong magnet, patients are asked if to report any metal or electronic devices that they might have in their body including joint replacements, surgically screws, staples or other implanted devices (including pacemakers or cochlear implants). Patients will also be screened for other metal particles such as metal shavings or shrapnel that they may have been exposed to, especially around the eyes. MRI magnets have different designs but most are about four feet long with a large, circular or oval opening. The patient will lie down on a padded table and whatever part of the body is being imaged will be in the center of the machine. When the machine is taking its pictures it will make loud knocking sounds, some more rapid than others. When the machine is knocking, that’s when pictures are being taken and it is important to lie still during that time. Patients are given earplugs or a headset (for music and/or communication) to help reduce the effect of this loud noise. An MRI exam usually consists of several sets of pictures and each one can take approximately two minutes to 5 minutes. The entire test could take from 30 to 60 minutes.
A technologist will usually check on a patient between pictures, and a closed circuit camera is also focused on the patient at all times for visual contact by the technologist. Some exams require the use of contrast (dye) to be injected in a vein. The use of contrast is determined by your physician or by the radiologist who oversees each study performed. MRI exams can be tailored to meet the specific needs of each patient, including those who may have a difficult time lying still for an extended period of time.
High-Field Open MRI systems are designed to emphasize physical and emotional comfort. Patients sent for an MRI can now receive scans without enduring confinement in the traditional long tube. Open MRI systems are also good news for larger patients and those who experience claustrophobic reactions. While in the Open MRI, patients have a 270-degree view, which helps reduce anxiety and claustrophobia. There is actually room to cross and uncross your legs or rest your arms comfortably on pillows. Unlike with traditional MRI, a friend or loved one can even sit nearby during the exam to provide emotional support.