Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the chest gives detailed images of structures within the chest cavity, including the mediastinum, chest wall, pleura, heart and vessels, from almost any angle. MRI of the chest can assess abnormal masses, including cancer of the lungs or other tissues, which either cannot be assessed adequately with other imaging modalities or which are particularly well-suited to MRI.
Because there is no ionizing radiation used in an MRI exam, Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a very popular tool in the medical community. In addition, MRI is a totally painless exam and has no known side effects.
When would I get a MRI of the Chest?
Your medical provider may recommend an MRI of the chest in order to:
- determine tumor size, extent, and the degree of spread to adjacent structures
- display lymph nodes and blood vessels, including vascular and lymphatic malformations of the chest
- assess disorders of the chest bones such as the vertebrae, ribs and sternum, and chest wall soft tissue (muscles and fat)
- assess for pericardial (the thin sac around the heart) disease
- characterize mediastinal or pleural lesions seen by other imaging modalities such as x-ray or Computed Tomography (CT).
What Will I Experience?
MRI exams are painless. However, some patients find it challenging to remain still. Others may feel closed-in (claustrophobia) or anxious while in a conventional closed MRI scanner. The scanner can be noisy. Nervous or anxious patients may be offered a mild sedative.
A patient may also ask their medical provider to prescribe a mild sedative to take before the exam. If a mild sedative is taken, the patient will need to have someone drive them to our center and take them home once the exam is done.
It is normal for the area of your body being imaged to feel slightly warm. It is important that you remain perfectly still while the images are being recorded, which is typically only a few seconds to a few minutes at a time. You will know when images are being recorded because you will hear tapping or thumping sounds when the coils that generate the radiofrequency pulses are activated. You will be able to relax between imaging sequences, but will be asked to maintain your position as much as possible.
You will usually be alone in the exam room during the MRI procedure. However, the technologist will be able to see, hear and speak with you at all times using a two-way intercom.
You will be offered earplugs or a headset to reduce the noise of the MRI, which produces loud thumping and humming noises during imaging. MRI scanners are air-conditioned and well-lit. Some of our scanners have music you can listen to during the test.
If you have an exam that requires an injection of intravenous contrast material, it is normal to feel coolness and a flushing sensation for a minute or two following the injection. The intravenous needle may cause you some discomfort when it is inserted and once it is removed, you may experience some bruising. There is also a very small chance of irritation of your skin at the site of the IV tube insertion.
Typically, this type of MRI exam will take approximately 30 to 45 minutes to complete.