What is an MRI?
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a powerful, non-invasive, painless tool that has revolutionized many fields of medicine. It has changed the way physician's diagnose and treat various ailments of brain, spine, joints. It has become an indispensable problem solving tool or the first examination of choice in evaluation of internal organs such as liver and pancreas or gynecological structures. MRI images are created using a powerful magnet along with radio waves and a computer. No ionizing radiation ( x- ray ) is used to produce the images.
Are all MRI machines the same?
No. MRI machines are generally divided into two groups based on their magnetic field strength as high field (closed) or low field (open). The high field MRI have a much stronger magnet which in turn create images that are far better than the open MRI. In general the closed MRI is five times stronger than open MRI which means your images are much clearer. The difference is very striking- broad clinical experience and many studies have demonstrated the superiority of high-field MRI over open MRI. Furthermore, the High field MRI scanners typically scan patients faster than open MRI scanners, which means more comfort for you. Currently, advanced techniques to detect early stroke, subtle multiple sclerosis plaques, cartilage tear in the joints, detecting growths in the abdominal organs are available only on high field/closed scanners.
The good news about new high-field MRI scanner is that the machine is no longer a "torpedo-tube" type and more looks like a fat doughnut ( see below for description of equipment). The new design makes it possible for your head to be outside of the machine for most exams. This allows us to do sophisticated, high-resolution exams without any "closed-in" feeling. Most people, in our experience 90 percent, have no problem with this new type MRI. Patients who have problems with severe claustrophobia may need to take a mild sedative before their examination. Your doctor or our radiologist can prescribe the right medication for you. If you do decide to take a sedative, please make sure that you have someone drive you home. Ultimately, you should discuss with your doctor which type of scanner is best suited for your particular examination.
What does the equipment look like?
All of our MRI machines are the latest state-of -the-art high field strength ( 1.5 T ) short bore magnets, a marriage between quality and comfort. The high strength of the magnet translate to hight quality images while the spacious design with a flared opening is particularly ideal for individuals that are fearful of closed spaces. Mild sedation is available upon request.
You will be placed comfortably on a movable table and small device (coil) will be placed on the area being imaged. While images are being taken, which usually takes 15 to 30 minutes, you can relax by listening to music provided through head phones or you can bring in the music of your choice.
How to prepare for my exam and what to expect?
No special preparation is required for most MRI examination. For certain MRI examinations of the abdomen and pelvic area, you may be asked not to eat or drink 4 hours prior to the test.
Unless you are told otherwise, you may follow your regular daily routine and take medications as usual. Some MRI examinations may require an injection of contrast into the bloodstream.
You will be asked to remove metallic and electronic objects such as jewelry, watches, metallic hair pins and other accessories before entering the MRI room.
People with internal defibrillator and cochlear (ear) implants should not enter the MRI area. Also, inform us if you have medical or electronic devices such as clips used on brain aneurysm, artificial heart valves, implanted drug infusion ports, implanted nerve stimulators, cardiac pacemakers or artificial limbs.
If you are breastfeeding at the time of the exam and receiving contrast for your exam you may pump breast milk ahead of time and keep it on hand for use after contrast material has cleared from your body.
After an MRI exam, you should be able to resume your normal activities.