What to Know When Getting an MRI

Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI offers a painless, non-invasive way to examine the inside of the body without using radiation. It works by exposing hydrogen atoms within the body to a magnetic field. MRI has control over which direction and frequency hydrogen protons spin. Since tissues respond differently to changes in their magnetic field, a computer can interpret data and convert it into images. These images offer physicians scans of the tissue from different angles and directions. 

MRI scans can help diagnose diseases of the brain, skeleton, spine, soft tissues, and abdomen. For instance, they can effectively diagnose and monitor a lot of neurological conditions like infections, brain tumors and multiple sclerosis, as well as vascular abnormalities including acute stroke and intracranial bleeding. Doctors also order MRI scans to confirm diagnoses such as spinal cord abnormalities including disc herniations, degenerative changes, and demyelination. Learn more here

Is It Safe to Get an MRI?

MRI doesn’t use radiation and temporary exposure to it has no known hazards. But, MRI images are taken using a strong magnetic field that can attract metal objects or may lead to metals in the body moving. Before you get an MRI, any internal metal objects must be confirmed as safe for the scan. 

For some kinds of MRI scans, the magnetic field can alter and create loud knocking noises, requiring ear protection. This can be concerning for some patients. Also, there may be a risk of allergic reaction to the contrast agent, which is administered intravenously. 

Getting an MRI

An MRI should be requested by a health care practitioner. Your doctor will usually review your medical and family history, risk factors, how long you have been experiencing the symptoms, and how they impact your everyday activities to determine if an MRI is right for you. If they find that the scan is the best course of action, your doctor will give you a requisition and preparation instructions for the examination. The scan may take between 25 and 30 minutes, depending on which part of your body will be scanned. 

What to Expect After Your Examination?

When your MRI scan is completed, a specialized radiologist will review your images. The radiologist will compile a report and send it to your doctor. Then, your doctor will review these images and the report and discuss with you the next steps like a treatment plan or the need for further diagnostic imaging or laboratory tests to make sure they come up with an accurate diagnosis.  

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