Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI is a radiology technique used to generate meticulous images of different body structures. This procedure uses a strong magnet and radio waves to create pictures on a computer screen. These pictures show all the tissues, organs, and structures in the body.
MRI is a highly effective process that helps to precisely detect any structural abnormalities in the body. It is most often used when other tests fail to offer a precise diagnosis of the patient’s condition.
Pictures that are taken this way help the caregivers to identify the problem in the body more easily. The scan generally takes between 15 to 90 minutes to complete.
How Does MRI Work?
A magnetic resonance imaging machine is a huge tubular machine that produces a powerful magnetic field around the patient’s body. When combined with radio waves, this magnetic field changes the hydrogen atoms’ typical alignment in the body.
As the process begins, pulses of radio waves are sent from the scanner. These waves collide with the nuclei of the hydrogen atoms, knocking them out of their normal position. As they slide back to their proper position, some radio signals are sent out. These signals are received by a computer. These signals are then analyzed and accordingly transformed to form an image of the different body parts being examined.
Risks and Side Effects of MRI
An MRI scan is a painless procedure that is often considered much less invasive than an X-ray. There are no known side effects caused by this procedure.
Patients who have any kind of metallic materials fitted within their body must talk to their physician before going for the scan. This is because such materials can hugely distort the images produced during the scan. Similarly, people who have metal implants, pacemakers, clips in or around the eyeballs, etc. cannot opt for the scan as the magnet can move the metal from their respective positions. Lastly, people who have cochlear implants, artificial heart valves, bullet fragments, or insulin pumps cannot get an MRI scan done.
If you are pregnant, you must notify your physician in advance. Due to the potential for a dangerous increase in the temperature of the amniotic fluid, the scan is not considered suitable for pregnant women.
In an MRI scan, the patient has to lie down inside a magnetic tube. Being in a small, enclosed space can sometimes make the patient feel claustrophobic. If this happens, the radiology staff may need to administer a mild sedative to the patient. This will help to ease the uncomfortable feeling.
In some cases, a contrast dye may be used during the scan to add better clarity to the MRI images. There is a risk for an allergic reaction to the dye. Patients who are sensitive to contrast dye, medications, or iodine must inform the radiologist beforehand. Also, MRI contrast dye may affect conditions like asthma, allergies, hypotension, and sickle cell disease.
There may be other risks involved depending on your specific medical condition. It is advisable to talk to your physician about any concerns that you may have before the scan.