Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Definition, Risks, Preparation, During and Post Procedure, and When to Seek Medical Care
What is an MRI?
MRI is short for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, a common medical procedure used by hospitals and medical personnel all over the world. Furthermore, a Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI is a test that utilizes magnetic fields as well as pulses of radio wave energy to make pictures of different structures inside our body such as bones, soft tissues, organs, etc. In comparison with other medical imaging procedures such as CT scan, X-ray, and Ultrasound, an MRI gives a much more detailed image of the structures inside your body and is able to show problems that cannot otherwise be seen in the aforementioned imaging tests.
What are Some of the Risks associated with Magnetic Resonance Imaging?
Although the magnet in an MRI is very powerful, there are really no known risks or harmful effects associated with undergoing one. But beware of metal parts in your body as the magnetic field used in an MRI is very strong. Metal implants you should be wary of are pacemakers, artificial limbs, and various implants that contain iron.
Any metal parts that are in your eye can cause retina damage, as well as iron pigments that can be found in one’s tattoo including tattooed eyeliners, can cause skin and even eye irritation. An MRI scan may also cause a burn where medicine patches are located.
To avoid these risks, be sure to tell your attending physician or MRI operator of any of these factors you are aware of before undergoing the scan, or better yet, take an x-ray of the various parts of your body where you suspect traces of metal can be found.
What are the Necessary Preparations for a Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scan?
You should primarily prepare yourself for an MRI scan by telling your doctor or attending physician if you are experiencing any one of these conditions:
- If you are pregnant.
- If you are allergic to any medicines that are used as a contrast material for the MRI.
- If you have any kind of metal implant in your body, such as:
A pacemaker, metal heart valve, coronary artery stent and ICD or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator
Metal parts, artificial limbs, pins and clips in your body
Cochlear implants and medicine infusion pumps
- If you have any IUD or intrauterine devices in your body
- If you become claustrophobic or nervous in tightly confined spaces, as you will need to lie very still inside an MRI for a long period of time.
- Have had any recent surgery on any blood vessel in your body.
What goes on behind a Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scan?
During the procedure, you may notice that the physician doesn’t naturally conduct the MRI scan. Usually, a magnetic resonance imaging test is done by a registered MRI technologist. The results are then interpreted by another medical professional, namely a radiologist, although other doctors can usually identify and interpret the results of an MRI scan.
What happens during the actual procedure is that you are made to lie on your back on a table. This table is naturally a part of the MRI Scanner, and then your head, chest, and arms will be held by straps that are also part of the scanner to help keep you still. The table will then slide into place, into a space that contains the powerful magnet. A device called a coil will then be held in place over the specific area that needs to be scanned.
During this procedure, the MRI technologist will sometimes put a special belt strap that can be used to monitor your breathing and heartbeat, so that the machine will be able to take the scan at the right time.
Once inside the scanner, you will feel air moving and will correspondingly hear a fan whirring. Tapping and snapping noises may also be present as the scans are being taken. The MRI Technologist may provide you with earplugs or headphones to help distract you from the noise.
You should be completely still while the procedure is being done and scans are being taken in order to get an accurate scan of your body. You will sometimes be asked to hold your breath, but only for short periods of time.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging: When to Seek Medical Care
A radiologist may take at least 1 to 2 days to completely analyze the results, but he/she can discuss some of the initial results with you right after the test. Here are some indications that you need to seek medical care based on your MRI Scan Results:
- When abnormal growths, especially in the form of tumors are present
- When a blood vessel is blocked or narrowed.
- When an organ shows up too large, too small, or damaged, and worse, absent from the scan.
- When there is an abnormal fluid indicating bleeding or infection, especially in the lungs, heart, liver or bowel.
- When there is visible damage to any of your bones, joints, ligaments, and cartilage.
- When there are problems in your nervous system that may indicate dementia, a herniated disc in your spine, multiple sclerosis, and/or Alzheimer’s disease.