Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic test that creates detailed images of organs and tissues in the body, using a magnetic field and computer-generated radio waves. No radiation is used. An MRI can help diagnose and monitor certain conditions.
An MRI may be used to diagnose:
- Certain types of cancer
- Liver diseases, such as cirrhosis
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Congenital heart disease
- Spinal cord disorders
- Brain injuries
- Multiple sclerosis
- Aortic aneurysms or dissections
- Blood vessel disorders
- Bone infections
- Eye and inner ear disorders
An MRI machine is a long narrow tube that has an opening at both ends. In the middle of the machine is a long table that will slide into the opening of the tube. You will be asked to lie down on the table, which will slowly move into the tube. During the scan, the machine will create a strong magnetic field around you, directing radio waves at your body. These radio waves realign hydrogen atoms that naturally exist in your body; this realignment causes the atoms to emit energy. The MRI machine will capture the energy that is produced and create pictures of the body.
What to Expect
An MRI is a painless procedure that typically takes less than an hour to complete. Here are some considerations to keep in mind:
- The procedure can be difficult for those with claustrophobia. If you are worried about being in an enclosed space for a period of time, talk to your physician about taking a sedative beforehand.
- Some patients may need to have a contrast dye (gadolinium) injected into a vein of their arm or hand to ensure images show up clearly on the MRI.
- You will likely hear lots of noises during the exam, which is completely normal. You can request earplugs or music to block out the noise.
- You will be able to speak to the technologist running the MRI through an intercom.
The risks to this procedure are minimal, especially considering radiation isn’t used. However, if you have metal inside your body that isn’t considered MRI safe (such as a pacemaker or cochlear implants), you may not be able to have this procedure. MRIs are also generally not recommended for pregnant women.
A radiologist will interpret the MRI scans to formulate a diagnosis, and he or she will develop a report on the findings. Then, your doctor will call you to discuss the results. This shouldn’t take longer than a day or two. In certain cases, your doctor may want you to have a follow-up MRI to focus on a particular area.
Tampa General Hospital is renowned for our diagnostic capabilities. In fact, our MRI imaging has received the gold seal of accreditation from the American College of Radiology, based on our commitment to excellence for patient safety, imaging technology and personnel qualifications.