Imagine the following scenario: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) provides enough detail that the radiologist and orthopedic doctor diagnosed a 50% tear in a tendon of the right ankle. Without the results from the MRI, the college freshman gymnast would have hurt herself even more.

After finishing a dose of steroids to reduce swelling and using an extra-strength pain relieving cream, the anxious gymnast sneaked in a couple of beam routines and base floor tumbling passes at the practice before receiving the results. She knew she was on the travel list but was hoping to earn a spot on the balance beam rotation. Three hours later, however, she was off the line-up for the meet and in a boot to protect the tendon from tearing the rest of the way. She was still traveling for the meet, but she would be watching, not competing.

Sound far-fetched? An MRI can actually provide a more detailed look at an extremity, or even the whole body, than a basic x-ray. That diagnosis lets doctors and their patients know what’s going on in the body to prevent further tears and damage from occurring.

The images produced by an MRI can create in-depth and specific views of bones, tissues, organs, and tendons. Because of the detail from the scans, however, the person is asked to lie very still for much longer than x-ray. In fact, a basic MRI takes about 30 minutes, but some can last as long as two hours.

Because of the loud rattling sound that the imaging machine makes, the person is given headphones or ear plugs to minimize the noise. Some people actually fall asleep during the exam (we actually prefer people to stay awake because sleeping may cause involuntary movements that blur the images for the radiologist to study).

MRI technology has been around since the late 1970’s. Radiology imaging can be used in a variety of situations, with the most common being:

  • Head scans
  • Spinal conditions and injuries
  • Soft tissue and bone conditions that are not apparent in an X-ray
  • Brain abnormalities, including tumors and sources of dementia
  • Certain types of ear, nose, and throat conditions
  • Female pelvic conditions
  • Male prostrate conditions

Pregnant women are rarely given MRI scans. Just as they are normally not given x-rays, pregnant women should avoid being exposed to magnetic imaging processes unless the benefit of the test is so strong that a medical provider would recommend undergoing the exam. But, in the vast majority of cases, women who are pregnant are almost always off-limits to MRI procedures.

Other people who should not have MRIs have some kind of metal in their bodies. A metal plate in a person’s head, as an example, makes that person unable to have an MRI. Likewise, heart pacemakers and surgically inserted metal joints will usually keep people from having MRIs.

As always, safety is our utmost priority. We conduct an extensive screening process in order to identify any potential problems or barriers that may stand in the way of completing an MRI. During times where it may not be clear as to a presence of a certain metal prohibiting an MRI being done, Capitol Imaging Services will conduct what we call “scout x-rays” to look closer at the metal and make a determination as to whether or not an MRI can be performed.

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