In a report from MD Anderson related to oncology patient perceptions of the use of ionizing radiation in diagnostic imaging, 29 percent said MRI used it.
This is incorrect.
But, it does show a gap in “health literacy” and one of the reasons Capitol Imaging Services uses this blog, our website and our social media tools to better explain exams and for people to become more familiar and comfortable with them.
So, let’s learn a bit more about MRI.
MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. The main advantage of MRI is that it does not use ionizing radiation in order to acquire images for the radiologist to review. An MRI scanner contains two powerful magnets; these are the most important parts of the equipment.
The human body is largely made of water molecules, which are comprised of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. At the center of each atom lies an even smaller particle called a proton, which serves as a magnet and is sensitive to any magnetic field.
Normally, the water molecules in our bodies are randomly arranged, but upon entering an MRI scanner, the first magnet causes the body’s water molecules to align in one direction, either north or south.
The second magnetic field is then turned on and off in a series of quick pulses, causing each hydrogen atom to alter its alignment and then quickly switch back to its original relaxed state when switched off. The magnetic field is created by passing electricity through gradient coils, which also cause the coils to vibrate, resulting in a knocking sound inside the scanner.
Although the patient cannot feel these changes, the scanner can detect them and, in conjunction with a computer, can create a detailed cross-sectional image for the radiologist to interpret.
The following are some examples of when MRI is often recommended by medical providers:
- Abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord
- Tumors, cysts, and other abnormalities in various parts of the body
- Injuries or abnormalities of the joints, such as back pain
- Diseases of the liver and other abdominal organs
- Causes of pelvic pain in women such as fibroids or endometriosis
Common MRI exams take about 30 minutes to complete. More complex MRI studies may take up to one hour to perform.
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