MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a common, non-invasive, and painless diagnostic test. It allows technologists to image the inside of a patient’s body. This helps them detect abnormalities, diagnose conditions, evaluate injuries, and plan treatments.
EmergeOrtho offers patients state-of-the-art diagnostics and imaging, including MRIs. Our MRI imaging specialists provide services accredited by the American College of Radiology, the gold standard in medical imaging.
How Magnetic Resonance Imaging Works
MRIs use a strong magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the body inside. The magnet forces protons in the body’s tissues to align. The application of the radio waves stimulates and disrupts the protons.
As the radio waves are turned off, the MRI machine senses the protons as they realign with the magnetic field. Different tissues produce different signals during this process, which allows the machine to create an accurate picture.
What to Expect When Getting an MRI
If your doctor recommends an MRI, you will get a separate appointment for the scan. When you arrive, you will change into a gown in a private area and be asked to remove any jewelry or anything else with metal.
A technologist will take you to the scanner and position you on the padded table. This table slides into the scanner, which is similar to a large tunnel. The technologist will make sure you are comfortable before proceeding.
Once inside the machine, you must remain as still as possible while still breathing normally. Movement can blur the image, requiring you to go through the procedure again. The equipment does not move during the scan, but the machine makes knocking sounds.
Your technologist will be in another room during the scan, but you can still communicate with them throughout the procedure if necessary. If you feel you might be claustrophobic and anxious inside the scanner, your doctor can prescribe you a medication to relax before the procedure.
Safety of MRI Scans
Because it does not expose patients to high-energy radiation, like X-rays, MRIs are very safe. Adverse events are rare according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, because it uses a magnet, doctors and technologists need to know when patients have certain conditions or implants:
- A cardiac pacemaker
- Ear or eye implants
- Stents or filters
- Brain aneurysm clips
- Bone stimulator devices
- Implanted pumps
- Artificial joints
- Heart valve replacements
- Cochlear implants
They also need to know if you are pregnant, work with metal, or have tattoos or permanent makeup. Your doctor can tell you if any of these prevent you from having an MRI.
Does a CT Scan Use Magnets Too?
Another common imaging scan is often confused with the MRI. A CT, formerly referred to as a CAT scan, is different from an MRI, although it also creates images of the inside of the body. A CT scan does not use magnets, like an MRI. CT uses ionizing radiation to acquire images. It takes multiple images around the body using X-rays. A computer processes the images to create cross-sectional images.