Today, an MRI is the modality of choice for a number of neurological and musculoskeletal applications. An MRI scan provides an unparalleled view inside the human body, with an extraordinary level of detail compared with any other imaging modality. Though almost all individuals in need of an MRI scan get apprehensive about doing the exam, the only other way to see inside the body any better is to cut it open (ready for that MRI now?). It may be an uncomfortable process, but the vast benefits of an MRI scan can certainly outweigh the few drawbacks of claustrophobia, noisy machines, and sitting still for extended periods of time. Patients today can also choose between a High-Field MRI, Open MRI, and Upright MRI.
An MRI scan is often used to evaluate and diagnose conditions such as tumors, infections, developmental issues, damage caused by stroke, suspected breast cancer, and chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS). Physicians can also gain information though an MRI about changes and injuries to the spinal column and vertebrae, the joints, and the structure of the heart muscle, as well as detect problems in many internal organs. The benefit of an MRI compared to an X-ray is that it is much more detailed, it can view more then just bones and joints, and it can produce three-dimensional images allowing the body to be viewed from many angles.
Very little preparation is needed for an MRI scan. Be sure to eat and drink normally, and continue to take usual medications. Under certain conditions, there may be dietary restrictions requested by the physician in cases when the MRI requires an injection or ingestion of a contrast agent, sedation or anesthesia, or other special considerations.
Keep in mind, patients will be asked to change into a gown and remove all accessories, glasses, dentures, hearing aids, prosthetic devices, and other metallic objects. It is best to keep them at home if possible. Also, avoid wearing any makeup as makeup may contain metal filaments.
It is also crucial to inform the staff if there is any metal in the body that cannot be removed such as pacemakers, heart valves, surgical staples and wires, insulin pump, etc. If patients were metal workers at some point, or had a piece of metal penetrate the eyeball, it is important to inform the doctor of this.
Most facilities prefer not to image pregnant women, as there has not been enough research conducted in terms of biological effects on a developing fetus. The final decision of whether or not to scan a pregnant patient is made on a case-by-case basis.
What to Expect During and After the MRI Scan
What to Expect During and After the MRI ScanPrior to scans, patients are encouraged to use the restroom as scans can take an extended period of time. A trained MRI professional will help position the patient on the scanner bed. Whether or not the patient goes in head first or feet first, as well as how far in they will go, is determined by the type of exam. Once the body part to be scanned is positioned in the exact center of the magnetic field, the scan can begin.
All a patient must do when the exam begins is relax and lie as still as possible. Take a few deep breaths before going in, and choose music that is calming, if offered headphones. Patients are able to talk to a member of the staff via a two way intercom system throughout the scan. Patients may also have a companion stay in the scanning room. Parents are especially encouraged to be in the room with their children during the scan.
Immediately following the exam, all normal activities and diet may be resumed. The fact that MRI systems do not use ionizing radiation is a comfort to many patients. MRI contrast materials also have a very low incidence of side effects. There are no known biological hazards to humans from being exposed to magnetic fields of the strength used in medical imaging today.
Just remember, MRI scans are painless and harmless. Try to practice some relaxation techniques as the key to successfully get through an MRI is to relax.
If you need more information about an MRI procedure or the equipment itself, please give us a call anytime.