Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses radiofrequency waves and a strong magnetic field rather than x-rays to provide remarkably clear and detailed pictures of internal organs and tissues. MRI is particularly useful for spine, brain and joint spaces of the upper and lower extremities, and is capable of showing soft tissues of the body and internal structures with a high degree of detail not found with other imaging equipment. This also makes it useful in diagnosing conditions such as blood flow and vessel disorders, and eye abnormalities.
In specific instances, MRI is also useful for evaluating problems in the chest, abdomen and pelvis, particularly if other imaging studies, such as CT and ultrasound have raised questions. The technique has proven very valuable for the diagnosis of a broad range of pathologic conditions in all parts of the body including cancer, heart and vascular disease, stroke, and joint and musculoskeletal disorders. MRI requires specialized equipment and expertise and allows evaluation of some body structures that may not be as visible with other imaging methods. What are some common uses of the MRI procedure?
Because MRI can give such clear pictures of soft-tissue structures near and around bones, it is the most sensitive exam for spinal and joint problems. MRI is widely used to diagnose sports-related injuries, especially those affecting the knee, shoulder, hip, elbow and wrist. The images allow the physician to see even very small tears and injuries to ligaments and muscles.
In addition, MRI of the heart, aorta, coronary arteries and blood vessels is a fast, noninvasive tool for diagnosing coronary artery disease and heart problems. Physicians can examine the size and thickness of the chambers of the heart and determine the extent of damage caused by a heart attack or progressive heart disease.
Organs of the chest and abdomen—including the lungs, liver, kidney, spleen, pancreas and abdominal vessels—can also be examined in high detail with MRI, enabling the diagnosis and evaluation of tumors and functional disorders. MRI is growing in popularity as an alternative to traditional x-ray mammography in the early diagnosis of breast cancer. Because no radiation exposure is involved, MRI is often the preferred diagnostic tool for examination of the male and female reproductive systems, pelvis and hips and the bladder.
Difficulties with a traditional MRI scan can include claustrophobia. Some patients are not able to receive this type of diagnostic test due to their size or for health-related reasons. The MRI unit is a limited space, and some patients may be too large to fit in a long, narrow tunnel. In addition, weight limits can restrict the use of some scanners. Most open MRI units are more comfortable for patients, but produce images with limited resolution. Our large bore open MRI magnet has become the best option for those patients, as it reduces claustrophobia, while producing high quality, high-resolution images.
Baptist M&S Imaging utilizes the Siemens Magnetom Espree. The Siemens Magnetom Espree system has a large-bore open magnet which creates a wide opening that increases patient comfort and allows easy access to the patient. The wide opening also allows for the patient to have a loved one, a friend or care-giver present next to them while their exam is being completed. If you or your patient, are claustrophobic or just this is your first MRI experience and you don't know what to expect, Baptist M&S Imaging can help. Preparing for your visit
Your safety is essential. While MRI is an extremely safe procedure, because of the powerful magnet there are special precautions we must take to ensure there is no metal in or on your body.
When you arrive for your procedure, the technologist will carefully go over your health history with you and question you about any metal objects in your body. You will be asked to remove such items as dentures, jewelry, watches, hair clips, and makeup if it has metallic flakes. This must be done before you enter the magnet scan room. Because of the strong magnetic field, it is very important that you inform us in advance if you have any of the following metal devices:
- a pacemaker
- aneurysm clips
- inner ear implants or hearing aids
- unremoved shrapnel or bullet fragments
- insulin or other infusion pumps
- neurostimulator (TENS-unit)
- permanent dentures
- permanent makeup, eyeliner or tattoos
- or if you have worked around metal and/or have had fragments in your eye(s)
Also, inform us if you have the following:
- surgical shunts
- vascular coils and filters
- heart valves
- metal plates, rods, pins or screws
- joint replacements; prosthesis
- surgical staples or wires
Preparing for your exam
No advanced preparation is required; simply show up at your confirmed appointment time.
For those patients who have been claustrophobic in the past, or believe they may be claustrophobic, please bring it to our attention in advance. At our Northeast location we have a high-field and an open MRI available.
If you have a wider frame, or are concerned about fitting properly into the MRI bore, please feel free to speak with an MRI technologist about the options we have available for your comfort. Do I need to bring anything with me for my MRI?
YES, please bring with you any previous x-rays, CTs, or MRIs of the body area we will be imaging, or call our office ahead of time to make arrangements for pick-up from your referring physician’s office. (This is very important because our radiologists use these films as a comparison to your new MRI scans for a more accurate diagnosis.)
Please let us know ahead of time if you are unable to lie flat for 30-45 minutes, are claustrophobic, are pregnant, or if you weigh more than 300 pounds.
Also, please bring your insurance card(s), policy number or claim authorization. What to expect
Please arrive at your confirmed time to register and fill out your insurance and medical information. For your safety and optimal care, the technologist will go over your health history with you. Before you enter the scanning room you will be asked to give keys, coins, and credit cards (the magnetic field will erase their data) to the technologist for safekeeping. Your exam will take approximately 30 to 45 minutes. The total time you should expect to be in the center is about an hour and a half. The MRI procedure
Before you begin, your MRI technologist will show you the scanner and explain the procedure to you.
You will be asked to lie down on a padded table, which will then slide very smoothly into the scanner opening. Once you are in position, you will need to lie as relaxed and as still as possible to maintain image quality. You will not feel a thing, but you may hear knocking and rumbling noises from the machine; these are normal and you should not be concerned.
Your MRI technologist will be in close contact with you at all times. He or she will be able to see and hear you, and will talk to you throughout the exam itself. The procedure is simple and safe. When a contrast agent is needed
In some cases, the doctor may order a contrast (imaging enhancement) agent. This is injected into a vein in your arm. It helps to make the details in MRI images clearer and is standard for some types of MRI scans. The contrast agent contains a very small quantity of a rare metallic ion, which highlights abnormalities during your MRI, including certain tumors and inflammation. It is also often useful to differentiate post-operative scarring from new pathology in the setting of previous surgery. Your exam results
Your MRI exam will produce a series of images, which one of our radiologists will read, looking for any abnormalities. In addition, the radiologist will compare your current exam with any prior exam results to determine any change in structure or shape. Once your results have been analyzed, they will be forwarded to your referring physician who will discuss the findings with you.