Understanding Magnetic Resonance Imaging

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a noninvasive diagnostic imaging test that takes detailed images of the soft tissues of the body. Unlike X-rays or CT,(which use low doses of radiation)  MRI images are created using a magnetic field, radio waves, and a computer. It allows your doctor to view your spine or brain in slices, as if it were sliced layer-by-layer and a picture taken of each slice. This test can help diagnose tumors, strokes, and disc herniation, as well as many other injuries or conditions.

Picture of MRI images of human head
Oasis new open MRI

Winchester Imaging’s MRI – State of the art Open Technology

What is MRI most commonly used for?

Because MRI images are best at showing soft tissue, it is used on the entire body. Soft tissue is more difficult to see in CT, X-Ray, or Ultrasound,  so MRI is  the best diagnostic tool for things like tendon or ligament injuries, spinal cord abnormalities and brain tumors. It is also commonly used in diagnosing conditions in the breast, heart, any internal organs, blood vessels, joints, and extremities.  The scan will produce very detailed, 3 dimensional images that can be viewed from the bottom, top or sides.  MRI is a powerful tool to get the correct diagnosis and put you on the path to better health.

Is MRI safe?

MRI is very safe. There are no known health risks associated with the magnetic field or the radio waves used by the machine.  However, there are some restrictions to ensure your safety.  Any metallic substance on your body can affect the quality of the images. It can also cause discomfort or injury to you when placed in the magnetic field, and may exclude you from the exam.

Also, be sure to tell your doctor if you’re pregnant. The American College of Radiology recommends that MRI scanning not be done in the first trimester of pregnancy. After the first trimester, there is no definitive research indicating that MRI is contraindicated in pregnancy. However, you will need to obtain a written order from your gynecologist for the test to be performed.

Some special circumstances limit the use of a magnetic field, so it’s important for you to tell your doctor if any of the following apply to you:

  • cardiac pacemaker or artificial heart valve
  • metal plate, pin, or other metallic implant
  • piercings (particularly body piercing)
  • intrauterine device, such as Copper-7 IUD
  • insulin or other drug pump
  • aneurysm clips
  • previous gunshot wound
  • cochlear implant or other hearing device
  • employment history as a metalworker (had metal in eye)
  • permanent (tattoo) eye-liner