What is MRI?
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. There is no radiation involved with an MRI procedure. The MRI uses a powerful magnetic field, radio frequency pulses, and a computer to produce detailed pictures of organs, soft tissues, bone and virtually all other internal body structures. Detailed MR images allow physicians to better evaluate various parts of the body and certain diseases.
MR imaging of the body is used for evaluating but not limited to:
- Organs of the chest and abdomen—including the heart, liver, biliary tract, kidney, spleen, pancreas, and adrenal glands
- Pelvic organs, including the reproductive organs in the male (prostate and testicles) and the female (uterus, cervix and ovaries)
- Blood vessels (MR Angiography)
Physicians use the MRI examination to help diagnose or monitor treatment for conditions such as:
- Tumors of the chest, abdomen or pelvis
- Certain types of heart problems
- Blockages or enlargements of blood vessels, including the aorta, renal arteries, and arteries in the legs
- Diseases of the liver, such as cirrhosis, and that of other abdominal organs, including the bile ducts, gallbladder, and pancreatic ducts
- Cysts and solid tumors in the kidneys and other parts of the urinary tract
- Tumors and other abnormalities of the reproductive organs (e.g., uterus, ovaries, testicles, prostate)
- Causes of pelvic pain in women, such as fibroids, endometriosis and adenomyosis
- Suspected uterine congenital anomalies in women undergoing evaluation for infertility
- Breast cancer and implants.
What to expect during your exam.
Some patients find it uncomfortable to remain still during MR imaging. Others experience a sense of being closed-in (claustrophobia). Sedation can be arranged for those patients who anticipate anxiety, but it is required that you have someone pick you up from the medical center.
You will usually be alone in the exam room during the MRI procedure The technologist will be able to see, hear, and speak with you at all times using a two-way intercom and window. Many MRI centers allow a friend, spouse or parent to stay in the room as long as they are also screened for safety in the magnetic environment.
You may request earplugs to reduce the noise of the MRI scanner, which produces loud thumping and humming noises during imaging. MRI scanners are air-conditioned and well lit. Some scanners have music to help you pass the time.
How to prepare for the exam.
You may be asked to put on a gown for your exam. Jewelry and other accessories should be left at home, if possible, or removed prior to the MRI scan because they can interfere with the magnetic field of the MRI unit. Metal and electronic objects are not allowed in the exam room. These items include:
- Jewelry, watches, credit cards and hearing aids, all of which can be damaged
- Pins, hairpins, metal zippers and similar metallic items, which can distort MRI images
- Removable dental work
- Pens, pocketknives, and eyeglasses
- Body piercings
In most cases, an MRI exam is safe for patients with metal implants, except for a few types. People with the following implants cannot be scanned and should not enter the MRI scanning area unless explicitly instructed to do so by a radiologist or technologist who is aware of the presence of any of the following:
- Internal (implanted) defibrillator or pacemaker
- Cochlear (ear) implant
- Some types of clips used on brain aneurysms
You should tell the technologist if you have medical or electronic devices in your body, because they may interfere with the exam or potentially pose a risk, depending on their nature and the strength of the MRI magnet. Examples include but are not limited to:
- Artificial heart valves
- Implanted drug infusion ports
- Implanted electronic device, including a cardiac pacemaker
- Artificial limbs or metallic joint prostheses
- Implanted nerve stimulators
- Metal pins, screws, plates, stents or surgical staples
In general, metal objects used in orthopedic surgery pose no risk during MRI. However, a recently placed artificial joint may require the use of another imaging procedure. If there is any question of their presence, an X-ray may be taken to detect the presence of and identify any metal objects.
Patients who might have metal objects in certain parts of their bodies may also require an X-ray prior to an MRI. Dyes used in tattoos may contain iron and could heat up during MRI, but this is rarely a problem. Tooth fillings and braces usually are not affected by the magnetic field but they may distort images of the facial area.
Please notify the technologist if you are pregnant.