Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Highly detailed pictures without radiation

If you have an injury or condition, your doctor may want to see it in great detail to help diagnose the problem. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an important imaging tool that creates highly detailed pictures of different parts of your body without exposing you to radiation.

Overview

If you have an injury or condition, your doctor may want to see it in great detail to help diagnose the problem. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an important imaging tool that creates highly detailed pictures of different parts of your body without exposing you to radiation.

During a traditional MRI, you are positioned on a table that moves back and forth inside a big tube. In some cases, your radiologist will need to inject a small amount of harmless dye (called contrast) to make sure parts of your body show up more clearly on the images.

The MRI scanner creates a strong magnetic field around you and directs radio waves at your body. The machine makes tapping and thumping noises, but you will not feel any pain. The technologist can give you headphones with music so you don’t hear the noises, or you can bring your own music on a device.

If you’re uncomfortable being in a small, enclosed space or are very overweight, you may prefer an open MRI, which has a larger opening than a traditional MRI machine. Talk to your doctor about this preference.

MRI Services

You may need a specific kind of MRI to diagnose certain health conditions. MRI types include:

  • Breast MRI: Helps detect tumors at an earlier stage than traditional mammography. If you’ve had positive mammogram results in the past, your doctor may recommend breast MRI instead of a screening mammogram.
  • Heart MRI: Creates detailed pictures of your heart and the tissue around it to diagnose conditions such as tumors, infection and damage caused by a heart attack [Link to Page ID 2.2.99: Conditions < Heart Attack].
  • Musculoskeletal MRI: Captures detailed pictures of bone fractures and joints to help your doctor plan surgery or other treatment for fractures.
  • Functional MRI: Looks at blood flow in the brain to detect damage from stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and tumors.
  • Surgical MRI: An intraoperative (during an operation) procedure to remove brain tumors. The MRI component allows your surgeon to observe the progress of surgery in real time and reduces the need for additional operations.

What to Expect

During a traditional MRI, you are positioned on a table that moves back and forth inside a big tube. In some cases, your radiologist will need to inject a small amount of harmless dye (called contrast) to make sure parts of your body show up more clearly on the images.

The MRI scanner creates a strong magnetic field around you and directs radio waves at your body. The machine makes tapping and thumping noises, but you will not feel any pain. The technologist can give you headphones with music so you don’t hear the noises, or you can bring your own music on a device.

If you’re uncomfortable being in a small, enclosed space or are very overweight, you may prefer an open MRI, which has a larger opening than a traditional MRI machine. Talk to your doctor about this preference.

MRI Services

You may need a specific kind of MRI to diagnose certain health conditions. MRI types include:

  • Breast MRI: Helps detect tumors at an earlier stage than traditional mammography. If you’ve had positive mammogram results in the past, your doctor may recommend breast MRI instead of a screening mammogram.
  • Heart MRI: Creates detailed pictures of your heart and the tissue around it to diagnose conditions such as tumors, infection and damage caused by a heart attack [Link to Page ID 2.2.99: Conditions < Heart Attack].
  • Musculoskeletal MRI: Captures detailed pictures of bone fractures and joints to help your doctor plan surgery or other treatment for fractures.
  • Functional MRI: Looks at blood flow in the brain to detect damage from stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and tumors.
  • Surgical MRI: An intraoperative (during an operation) procedure to remove brain tumors. The MRI component allows your surgeon to observe the progress of surgery in real time and reduces the need for additional operations.

On the day of your MRI, wear loose, comfortable clothing and avoid wearing jewelry or other metal, such as zippers and snaps. You may be asked to change into a gown for the exam. Be sure to let your doctor know in advance if you have a surgically implanted device such as a pacemaker or insulin pump.

An MRI usually takes 30 to 90 minutes. Your doctor will tell you how long to plan on. Your technologist will tell you when to expect the results from your MRI.

Preparing For Your MRI

On the day of your MRI, wear loose, comfortable clothing and avoid wearing jewelry or other metal, such as zippers and snaps. You may be asked to change into a gown for the exam. Be sure to let your doctor know in advance if you have a surgically implanted device such as a pacemaker or insulin pump.

An MRI usually takes 30 to 90 minutes. Your doctor will tell you how long to plan on. Your technologist will tell you when to expect the results from your MRI.

You can go back to normal activities immediately after an MRI.

After Your MRI

You can go back to normal activities immediately after an MRI.

  • Does MRI hurt?
  • Why am I having MRI instead of X-rays?
  • What if I feel claustrophobic during MRI?
  • Can the technologist hear me during my MRI?
  • Will my insurance cover MRI?

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About MRI

  • Does MRI hurt?
  • Why am I having MRI instead of X-rays?
  • What if I feel claustrophobic during MRI?
  • Can the technologist hear me during my MRI?
  • Will my insurance cover MRI?

RadiologyInfo.org

The American College of Radiology and Radiological Society of North America offers extensive information about MRI technology, how it captures highly detailed images of the inside of your body, and how it benefits both you and your physician.

Resources

RadiologyInfo.org

The American College of Radiology and Radiological Society of North America offers extensive information about MRI technology, how it captures highly detailed images of the inside of your body, and how it benefits both you and your physician.