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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

SRMC’s Optima MRI system from GE Healthcare delivers highly detailed images of the human body with speed and high resolution. The MRI machine uses a powerful magnet, low-intensity radio waves, and computer technology to create detailed images of the soft tissues, muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and bones in your body. With this advanced technology, SRMC can provide shorter exams and greater comfort for patients, while providing higher diagnostic confidence for healthcare providers.

About an MRI

Magnetic resonance imaging and angiography (MRI/MRA) is one of technology's most advanced diagnostic tools for today's healthcare provider. It allows evaluation of many body structures that may not be as visible with other diagnostic imaging methods. One special feature of MRI is its ability to obtain views of the body from any angle or direction. MRI is a valuable tool for the diagnosis of a broad range of conditions, including:

  • joint and musculoskeletal disorders
  • cancer
  • heart and vascular disease
  • stroke

There’s no X-ray radiation and the magnets and radio waves are harmless.

What are some common uses of MRI?

  • Imaging of the Musculoskeletal System: MRI is often used to study the knee, ankle, foot, shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand. MRI is also a highly accurate method for evaluation of soft tissue structures such as tendons and ligaments, which are seen in great detail. Even subtle injuries are easily detected. In addition, MRI is used for the diagnosis of spinal problems including disc herniation, spinal stenosis and spinal tumors.
  • Imaging for Cancer and Functional Disorders: Organs of the chest and abdomen such as the liver, lungs, kidney, bowel and other abdominal organs can be examined in great detail with MRI. This aids in the diagnosis and evaluation of tumors and functional disorders. In the early diagnosis of breast cancer, MRI is an alternative to traditional x-ray mammography. Furthermore because there is no radiation exposure is involved, MRI is often used for examination of the male and female reproductive systems or to follow-up patients who need sequential imaging over months.
  • MRI Mammography: MRI is most often used along with mammograms or breast ultrasound to detect breast cancer, in women with high risk or very dense breasts. In a Dutch study of nearly 2,000 high-risk women, mammograms detected 36 percent of the women's tumors, while MRIs picked up 71 percent. MRI exams for breast imaging use a contrast material (gadolinium DTPA) that is injected into a small vein in the arm before or during the exam. This improves the ability of MRI to clearly show breast tissue details.
  • Imaging of the Heart and Blood Vessels: MRA of the heart, aorta, coronary arteries, and blood vessels is a tool for diagnosing coronary artery disease and other heart problems. MRI can look at damaged heart muscle with gadolinium contrast as well as quantify blood flow across intracardiac shunts. MRI can also image blood vessels without gadolinium contrast, which is extremely helpful in patients who have poor kidney function or who have severe allergies.

How should I prepare for an MRI?

  • You may be asked not to eat or drink before the exam depending upon the body area to be examined.
  • If taking medications, please ask your healthcare provider if you should take before your test.
  • Bring a list of your medications to the exam.
  • You may be asked to change into a gown.
  • Before your MRI exam, remove all accessories including hair pins, jewelry, eyeglasses, hearing aids, wigs, dentures, belts or anything else made of metal. Some makeup may contain traces of metal, so you may be asked to remove that, too. Braces and fillings should not be a problem. Occasionally, an X-ray of your body to look for metal may be required.
  • The technologist will ask you several specific questions to make sure it is safe for you to enter the MRI room. Notify your technologist if you have: 
    • any prosthetic joints (e.g., hip, knee, etc.)
    • any metal plates, pins, screws or surgical staples in your body
    • a heart pacemaker, defibrillator, artificial heart value or other metal implants
    • an intrauterine device (IUD)
    • tattoos or permanent makeup
    • a bullet, shrapnel or metal splinters in your body
    • ever worked with metal (e.g., welding)
    • medication patches
    • kidney problems
    • allergies to contrast or medications

You also will be asked whether:

  • you are pregnant or suspect you may be pregnant
  • you are claustrophobic (afraid of confined spaces.) If you are, a sedative may be provided, if necessary.

What should I expect during this exam?

Depending on how many images are needed, the exam may take up to an hour. However, very detailed exams may take longer.

  • An MRI is generally painless.
  • You must lie down on a sliding table and will be comfortably positioned. The body area to be examined will be placed on a “coil,” a special type of MR antenna designed to capture the images we are generating.
  • Even though the technologist must leave the room, you will be able to communicate with them at any time using an intercom. If necessary, a friend or family member may stay in the room with you during the exam.
  • The machine will make loud thumping and whirring sounds, so earplugs or headphones are available to help reduce the noise.
  • You may feel warmth in the area being examined. This is normal.
  • Try to relax. You will be asked to remain still during the actual imaging process. However, between sequences, your technologist will let you know when slight movement is allowed.
  • Depending on the part of the body being examined, a contrast fluid may be used to enhance the visibility of certain tissues or blood vessels. A small needle is placed in your arm or hand vein. There may be some discomfort at the injection site. You may also feel a cool sensation at the site during the injection.

What will happen after the exam?

  • After the test, you may have to wait briefly on the table while the technologist ensures the images are clear.
  • You should be able to return to normal activities right away.
  • However, if you took a sedative, you will need an adult family member or friend to give you a ride home.
  • You can remove the bandage from the IV site an hour or so after the test. If the IV site becomes red, swollen or painful 1 to 2 days later, contact your healthcare provider.
  • Contrast that may have been injected will pass naturally out of your body in your urine within a day. Drink plenty of fluids to help pass the contrast, unless you are on fluid restriction.
  • Your healthcare provider will contact you with your test results.