MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, a non-invasive, radiation-free scanning technology that uses radio waves and magnetic fields to produce clear and detailed three-dimensional images of nearly all organs and hard and soft tissues in the body. The multifunctional MRI can be used to identify or precisely locate an injury or abnormality, to scan for developing problems or analyze damage from previous trauma, and to aid in the planning of surgery.
Unlike x-rays, radioisotopes and CT scanning, MRI uses radiofrequency waves, making it safer than other methods that use radiation. Radio waves detect differences in water concentration and distribution in various body tissues.
MRI produces images of any area of the body and can be an invaluable tool for detecting a wide range of joint and musculoskeletal disorders of the knee, shoulder, hips, wrist and hands, including those affecting the tendons, ligaments, muscles and bones. It can also be used to determine the cause of back pain and diagnose a herniated disc or pinched nerve. In addition, our MRI is certified by the American College of Radiology. (Is this a truth Dr. H?) This certification requires that the MRI machine and the associated radiologist who is in charge of reading our studies must meet very stringent requirements of quality testing and quality control.
People with claustrophobia may feel uncomfortable in a traditional or “closed” MRI unit because they must lie still inside a narrow tunnel within the scanning magnet. Fortunately, new technology has allowed for the creation of more patient-friendly open MRI systems, in which the patient is only partially enclosed, for a much quieter and more comfortable experience, such as the system offered here at Orthopedic Specialists of Northwest Indiana. Patients can also have a friend or family member in the room with them during an open MRI procedure.
Open MRI Scan Procedure
During an MRI scan, the patient lies on a table in the open MRI unit while the technicians wait outside the room. Communication is possible with an intercom system. An IV may be necessary to supply an anticoagulant saline solution if the exam requires a contrast material for better imaging of blood vessels or other structures. When all scans have been taken, the results are sent to a radiologist for examination.
Each MRI scan can last from two to 15 minutes, but up to six images may be needed for a proper diagnosis, for an average total exam time of about 15 to 45 minutes. There is no palpable or physical damage caused by radiofrequency waves or the MRI unit. The only thing you may feel during the procedure is a change in temperature (warmth, or coolness if a contrast material is used) at the scan site. Some patients are bothered by the tapping or clicking noise of the machine; ear plugs may be helpful.
The results of an MRI are usually available within 24-48 hours, at which point your doctor will discuss any findings with you and determine an appropriate course of treatment.
Risks of Open MRI
While an MRI is considered a safe diagnostic procedure with no major risks or side effects for most patients, its use of a strong magnetic field may lead to serious complications for some. Patients certain conditions should not undergo an MRI exam, including those with:
- Cardiac pacemaker
- Implantable cardioverter defibrillator
- Cochlear ear implant
- Intrauterine device
- Metal implants
- Surgical staples
Patients should remove all metal objects, including jewelry, hair clips, and hearing aids, before undergoing this procedure in order to reduce the risk of complications. Your doctor will provide you with specific instructions to prepare for your procedure, as well as discuss the details and risks of an open MRI exam.
To learn more about our open MRI, please call us today to schedule an appointment.
MRI is the acronym for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. MRI is non-invasive and does not use radiation (x-ray). MRI utilizes powerful magnets, radio waves, and computers to create detailed images in shades of black and white. It is an important tool physicians use to diagnose and treat spinal conditions.
MRI can capture images from these different angles:
- Lateral: side view
- Axial: overhead view
- Anterior: front view
- Posterior: rear view
Unlike conventional x-ray, MRI can capture pictures of your spine and render the image as a whole (like a loaf of bread) or slices (a sliced loaf of bread). MR images can be viewed on film (like x-ray) or computer monitor in your physician’s office or in the operating room. Furthermore, the images can be emailed, printed, or copied onto various storage devices.
How MRI Works Your body has hydrogen atoms in it. When the MRI magnets are activated, the atoms line up and spin. When the magnet is turned off, the atoms stop rotating—but at different rates depending on the type of tissue (eg, bone or muscle) the hydrogen atoms occupy. A computer collects all this information and performs complex calculations, which the system utilizes to manipulate imaging data and render each MRI.
Why Your Physician May Order MRI MRI is often preferred when evaluation of soft tissues is necessary. Some of the reasons your physician may order MRI include the following:
- View potential causes of neck pain or low back pain, such as a bulging disc or a herniated disc
- Evaluate spinal cord and/or nerve compression
- Assess infection
- Detect a tumor
- Plan surgery
How to Prepare for MRI
Dr. Hecht or your referring physician provides specific instructions for you. Many MRI machines require the patient to be slid into a tube-like structure for the test. However, some radiological facilities in your area may offer open MRI. Before open MRI was available, patients were administered a medication that reduces feelings of claustrophobia.
Because the MRI utilizes powerful magnets, patients with pacemakers, metal implants, tattoos, or who are (or may be) pregnant cannot undergo this test. A CT scan is an alternative.
The radiology technician may ask you to change into a gown, and/or remove anything metallic (eg, belt with metal buckle, jewelry, pocket change). Your clothing and personal things are kept secure for you during the test.
What to Expect During MRI
The radiology technician may offer you earplugs or headphones because the MRI machine makes different noises during the test. Some of the noises are loud (eg, loud clicking), but the machine is supposed to make those noises; you do not have to worry.
You are positioned on the bed of the MRI machine. This is an automated platform that slides you into and out of the machine. Since the MRI room is often cold, you are covered with a blanket and made as comfortable as possible.
The MRI test is broken up into segments. Throughout the test you and the technician can speak to each other. He asks how you are doing, tells you when to be still, and how long the next testing segment will last. It may take an hour (sometimes longer) to perform the MRI.
After the MRI
The radiologist interprets the MRI and dictates a report for your physician’s review. Your physician will explain the results to you so you understand his diagnosis and treatment recommendations based on the MRI.