An MRI scan, which stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, is a non-invasive medical imaging technique that uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to generate detailed images of the internal structures of the body. MRI scans provide high-resolution images that can help diagnose a wide range of medical conditions. Here’s some important information about MRI scans:
MRI scans are used to visualise and evaluate various structures within the body, including organs, soft tissues, muscles, nerves and bones. They are commonly used to diagnose conditions such as tumours, injuries, infections, abnormalities and diseases affecting the brain, spine, joints, abdomen, pelvis and other parts of the body.
During an MRI scan, the patient lies on a table that slides into a cylindrical scanner. The scanner contains a powerful magnet and radio waves are directed towards the body. These radio waves cause the protons in the body’s atoms to align in a magnetic field. When the radio waves are turned off, the protons return to their original positions, emitting signals that are detected by the scanner. The signals are then processed by a computer to create detailed cross-sectional images of the body.
In some cases, a contrast agent, typically a gadolinium-based substance, may be used to enhance the visibility of certain structures or abnormalities during an MRI scan. Contrast agents are administered intravenously and can provide additional information in certain situations, such as detecting tumours or evaluating blood flow.
MRI scans do not involve exposure to ionising radiation, making them a safe imaging option for most individuals. However, certain individuals with metallic implants, such as pacemakers, cochlear implants, or metallic foreign bodies, may not be eligible for an MRI due to potential safety risks. It is crucial to inform the healthcare providerbout any metallic implants or devices before undergoing an MRI.
Types of MRI Scans
MRI scans can be performed on different areas of the body depending on the clinical question and area of interest. Some common types include:
- Brain MRI: Used to evaluate the brain, including the presence of tumours, strokes, multiple sclerosis and other neurological conditions.
- Spine MRI: Examines the spinal cord and surrounding structures, helping to diagnose herniated discs, spinal cord injuries and spinal abnormalities.
- Joint MRI: Provides detailed images of joints, such as the knee, shoulder, hip, or wrist, to assess injuries, inflammation, arthritis, or other joint-related problems.
- Abdominal and Pelvic MRI: Visualises organs in the abdomen and pelvis, including the liver, kidneys, uterus, ovaries, prostate and bladder, for the evaluation of tumours, cysts, or other abnormalities.
- Breast MRI: Used as a supplemental screening tool for breast cancer detection in high-risk individuals or for further evaluation of breast abnormalities detected in mammography or ultrasound.
MRI technology continues to advance, providing improved image quality, faster scanning times and the ability to acquire functional and dynamic information. Advanced techniques such as diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI), magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) and functional MRI (fMRI) allow for the assessment of tissue characteristics, blood flow and brain activation, respectively.
MRI scans are valuable diagnostic tools that provide detailed images for the evaluation and management of various medical conditions. They are commonly used in hospitals and imaging centres to aid in diagnosis, treatment planning and monitoring of patients. However, it’s important to note that MRI scans may not be suitable for everyone and certain contraindications or safety precautions should be considered.