What is an MRI?
MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field rather than X-rays to provide clear and detailed pictures of internal organs and tissues. Because the MRI can provide such clear pictures of soft-tissue structures near and around bones, it is usually the best choice for examination of the body major joints, the spine for disc disease, and the soft tissues of the extremities.
MRI can also be used to obtain images of the heart, aorta, coronary arteries and blood vessels. It 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.
MRI is also useful to obtain images 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.
When is an MRI Necessary?
Using MR images, physicians can locate and identify:
- Causes of pain.
- Degenerative disorders (arthritis, deterioration of joint surfaces).
- Fractures not visible with use of X-ray.
- Herniated discs.
- Swelling or bleeding in the tissues in and around joints and bones.
- Small tears and injuries to tendons, ligaments, and muscles.
- Evaluate spinal cord trauma.
How is an MRI Performed?
You will be comfortably positioned on a special table that slides into the MRI system. The technologist will perform the MRI sequences at the control unit in an adjoining room. You will be able to communicate with the technologist by means of an intercom, and music or earplugs will be supplied for your comfort. An MRI does not cause any pain, but you may find it uncomfortable to remain still during the examination. If an injection of contrast material is needed, you may have a cool sensation at the site of the injection.