What is an MRI?
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a sensitive diagnostic test that uses powerful magnets to create high quality images of organs and specific areas inside the body. MRI differs importantly from CAT scans in that there is no exposure to radiation. MRI and CAT scans provide different kinds of information which are frequently complimentary. Depending on the specific question your doctor has, he or she may order one or the other.
Why Would I Need an MRI?
MRI is performed for viewing all kinds of tissues, including muscle, fat, intervertebral discs and neural tissue. It is useful in detecting tumors, blood vessel diseases and infections. It is widely used to diagnose sports-related injuries, such as strains and tears of the ligaments, tendons and muscles. It can also be used to evaluate heart conditions and nervous system disorders. The following are the various types of available MRI exams:
- Abdominal and Pelvis MRI helps to evaluate problems (e.g. tumors) in organs such as the liver, bladder, gallbladder, pancreas, and kidneys. It can also be used to evaluate abdominal blood vessels and infections, as well as a woman's uterus and a man's prostate.
- Breast MRI enables radiologists to view the breast without radiation. It is sometimes recommended to further evaluate breast abnormalities in conjunction with breast ultrasound and mammography.
- Head MRI is used to detect a variety of central nervous system disorders, including tumors, stroke, inflammatory and infectious conditions and vascular abnormalities, such as aneurysm. It can also reveal abnormalities of the eyes and optic nerves, and the ears and auditory nerves.
- Chest MRI allows visualization of the heart, valves and coronary blood vessels and can detect damage in the heart or lungs.
- MRA (magnetic resonance angiography) is used to see the blood vessels and the flow of blood. Problems with the arteries (i.e. an aneurysm) and veins (e.g. venous clots) can be identified, as well as blocked vessels or torn lining of a blood vessel.
- Musculoskeletal MRI can check for problems of the bones, joints and muscles, such as tumors, arthritis, bone marrow and cartilage abnormalities, torn ligaments and tendons and infection. MRI may also be used in the evaluation of conditions of the spine, such as disc herniations, spinal stenosis and spinal tumors.
What to Expect
Patients do not feel any pain while undergoing an MRI and no special diet or preparation is required before this exam. They are asked to remove anything metal, which includes jewelry and even bras, which typically have metal clasps, and may be asked to change into a hospital gown if their clothing has metal zippers or buttons. Otherwise, wearing clothes should be fine.
The examination table is fairly narrow and slides out from the tubular machine. It is very important that patients lie completely still during the procedure in order to obtain the clearest image. Patients are easily able to communicate through an intercom; however, due to the enclosure of the equipment, some patients who experience claustrophobia may feel uncomfortable. Here at Montefiore Medical Center, we also offer scanning using a 1.0 Tesla Open MRI. This machine features a patient-friendly imaging table and produces excellent pictures without the confinement of an imaging tube. Therefore, patients with claustrophobia can be more relaxed and large or disabled patients are able to experience easier positioning and maximum comfort, as compared to traditional MRI. The Department of Radiology at Montefiore also houses seven other MRI units, including two 3.0 Tesla MRI scanners, which offer the advantages of high field scanning.
MRI tests could take as little as 15 minutes or as long as two hours, depending on the type of study. Some examinations require an injection of a contrast agent into a vein to better view certain areas of the body. Our radiologists help patients feel as comfortable as possible during their exam. We offer earplugs to all patients to minimize the volume of sound from the testing equipment. Immediately following the scan, patients may resume normal activities.
Because MRI uses magnets to create images, patients with pacemakers and some other implanted devices cannot undergo MRI. If you are going to have an MRI and you have an implanted device inside your body, please let the technologist or radiologist know prior to your study.
MRI is offered at the following Montefiore facilities:
- Montefiore Advanced Imaging, Medical Arts Pavillion
- Montefiore Advanced Imaging, Montefiore Medical Park
- Montefiore Advanced Imaging, Gun Hill Road
- Moses Campus
- Einstein Campus