What is an MRI?
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a medical imaging exam that visualizes the various structures within the body. It can provide highly detailed images of the body in any plane. Unlike X-rays and computed tomographic (CT) scans which use radiation, MRI utilizes powerful magnets and radio waves, which are bounced off the body and recorded by a computer. Once taken, the images can be stored on a computer or printed on film. An MRI provides much greater contrast between different soft tissues of the body than CT scans, making it ideal for neurological, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and oncological imaging.
Depending on the area of the body being scanned, patients are sometimes asked to fast for a period before the scan. Other preparations are usually not required. However, patients who have any metal objects in their body such as cochlear implants, brain aneurysm clips, certain artificial heart valves and other objects should not have an MRI. Contrast agents (or dyes) are sometimes used to better highlight special areas of the body during an MRI. Allergic reactions to contrast agents are rare, but should be discussed with your doctor. An MRI exam is a safe and highly effective diagnostic tool that has become essential in diagnosing a range of medical problems.