Comprehensive MRI GUIDE: How To Prepare For An MRI Scan
WHAT IS AN MRI?
Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI is a diagnostic imaging technique used by radiologists to access pictures of specific parts of a patient’s body for the diagnosis process.
An MRI system is designed with scanners and functions with strong magnets. Magnets used in an MRI system are measured in units called Tesla.
The most common magnetic strength used in MRI machines today is between 0.5T (or Tesla) to 3.0T (or Tesla). The stronger units of MRI, which can reach up to 60T, are mostly utilized in research protocols and not imaging of the human body.
Expert MRI provides advanced, multi-positional Open, Upright, and Stand-Up MRI equipment that delivers zero-radiation imaging with accurate, high-quality, and detailed results.
HOW SAFE IS AN MRI TEST?
Why an MRI is considered a safer alternative diagnostic imaging tool than X-rays and CT Scans:
An MRI machine uses radio waves and creates a magnetic field to produce pictures of the patient’s body for the diagnostic evaluation process. It does not use ionizing radiation to administer the imaging procedure
In the case of X-ray imaging, radiation is used to develop images of soft tissues and bone structures of the human body. The radiation exposure can cause cancer and other health hazards. The same goes for CT scans that use radiation to create multiple scans like X-rays
How many annual MRI scans can a patient safely undergo?
You will not feel a pinch while undergoing an MRI procedure, as the entire process takes place at a subatomic degree.
The MRI procedure does not involve the use of toxic radiation, which is otherwise prevalent in X-rays. As mentioned above, an MRI scan is done using a powerful magnetic field and radio waves.
However, a few patients cannot undergo an MRI procedure because of the presence of metallic objects or entities in their bodies. We’ll discuss this in greater detail below
Is an MRI safe?
An MRI is a safe, non-invasive medical procedure. Some patients may be scared or concerned about the impact of realigned atoms occurring during the MRI process, but this is an unfounded concern debunked through medical science. The body’s chemistry and atomic structure return to normalcy after the completion of an MRI test.
Strong metallic field
An MRI procedure – as mentioned earlier – is non-invasive and painless. There’s no discomfort or risk involved in the process. However, the primary safety concern is associated with its energetic magnetic field environment.
So, taking any metallic object (or having the presence of a similar metallic component within the body) can be a reason for preventing an MRI scan from taking place. Metal bits will mangle with the metallic field, and distortion in MRI space will pose an adverse effect, thus stopping the procurement of high-quality images.
An MRI is one of the most prominent radiological imaging technologies. It works using radio waves and magnetic fields and creating a temporary magnetic moment in our body to produce detailed images from its internal structure.
Some Common Questions
How Many Tesla Is An MRI? What Is The Difference Between 1.5T and 3T? Is Higher The Tesla In MRI, Better The Imaging Results?
A radiologist or a radiologist technician mentions an MRI scanner as a 1.5T scanner or 3T Scanner. The “T” stands for “Tesla”, which is a measuring unit for the magnetic field strength of an MRI system.
To get a clear picture of the underlying idea related to the magnetic strength of an MRI scanner, here’s a comparative analysis of the magnetic field that the earth produces and the strength of a 1.5T or Tesla MRI system.
Magnetic Power In MRI Tesla Is Stronger Than The Units Produced By Earth
Our earth produces a 0.5 gauss’s magnetic field, which equates to 0.00005 Tesla strength. So, if you calculate, it takes 15,000 gausses to create 1.5T or Tesla magnetic strength – that means a 1.5T magnet is 30000 times stronger than the magnetic field of our earth.
It’s for this magnetic measurement, patients and the radiological staff members are advised to enter an MRI Suite or Room without any metallic component or inform the radiology staff of any integrated metallic implant or element in your body prior to getting an MRI.
What type of MRI machine is best for me?
There are three primary types of MRI machines available
- Traditional Closed MRI
- Open MRI
- Stand-up, Sitting or Open Upright MRI
Traditional Closed MRI
The Traditional Closed MRI system is designed in a tubular, narrow structure. You need to lie down in order to get scanned through a closed MRI.
Though this particular MRI machine delivers accurate and high-quality images, it’s not prescribed to patients who claustrophobic, obese, or suffer from fear of a closed environment.
An Open MRI machine is an advanced system designed to allow patients to undergo the process of an MRI scan, without feeling claustrophobic or anxious. It’s changing the diagnostic imaging future. It’s best for bariatric, pediatric, and claustrophobic patients.
Unlike traditional closed MRI scanners, which are in a tube, cylinder shape, where the scanning is done only in a recumbent position, an Open MRI machine is designed with open sides. It provides a non-confined and relaxed environment for scanning.
Upright MRI machines are unique in design and make. The MRI scanner is designed to scan patients in a weight-bearing position. Patients can get an MRI scan in a standing, sitting, lying down, or bending positions. The upright MRI scans patients in the exact spot where they experience the issue or pain. It can examine in flexion and extension positions or layman’s term, multiple positions.
HUMAN BODY AND MRI: THE SCIENCE BEHIND IT
How does an MRI machine work with magnets to produce pictures of the human body?
Diverse elements make up the human body. And it comprises minerals, fat, protein, and water. However, water makes up 70% of our bodies. As a result, there is a buoyant existence of water molecules in various parts of our body. This structural protocol works with an MRI system to complete the procedure.
Creating Magnetic Moment
The water’s atomic structure is composed of one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms – H2O – its chemical symbol. However, the hydrogen proton or nuclei is the prime element that spines on an axis.
This axial spinning of the Hydrogen nuclei creates a magnetic moment – just like the south and north pole.
How billions of water molecules in our body transformed into magnets to work with the magnetic field created by the MRI Scanners?
The magnetic moment transforms each water molecule (billions of them) into magnets. And the particles after getting exposed to the MRI machine’s sizeable magnetic field, start spinning at a distinctive frequency level.
Another magnetic field modifies the water molecules, directing them to a new direction and realigning them, allowing the MRI scanner to look deep in the internal parts of our body.
Essential Part Of MRI Scanner That Works As A Camera
Another essential component of the MRI scanner – Detector Coils, which are placed on the patient’s body – function just like a camera.
They work to yield pictures of the altering magnetic fields and how magnetic power act around different tissues. The coils then produce precise images of the bones, organs, soft tissues, and other parts of the human body.
Our Team at ExpertMRI includes trained and experienced staff, subspecialty radiologists and MRI technologists who will make sure you experience a hassle-free, comfortable and stress-free MRI scanning session.
EXPERTMRI’S NETWORK OF STATE-OF-THE-ART FRONT OPEN MULTI-POSITIONAL UPRIGHT MRI SYSTEM
What type of MRI machines or MRI services does ExpertMRI provide?
Our multiple MRI centers are equipped with 1.5T, 3T MRI equipment. We also offer Advanced Radiology Technologies, like, Diffusion-Weighted Imaging (DWI) and Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI).
Why we provide Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) and Diffusion-Weighted Imaging (DWI)?
ExpertMRI is a premier resource of diagnostic imaging services for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). DTI and DWI are advanced imaging technologies that help in the diagnosis of Vascular Strokes in one’s brain and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
Furthermore, these advanced MRI tools offer a non-invasive and objective evaluation of SCI or Spinal Cord Injury, TBI and detailed visualization of microstructures in one’s brain.
ADVANTAGES OF MRI OVER OTHER DIAGNOSTIC IMAGING MODALITIES
What’s the difference between a CT scan and an MRI?
A CT scan is an elaborative type of an X-RAY. A CT technologist acquires multiple, individual X-RAYs and assembles them through the computer to create cross-sections of the otherwise complex human anatomy. The MRI technique uses magnetic properties and not ionizing radiation to create images of the body.
What Is An MRI Scan Used To Diagnose?
An MRI provides healthcare professionals with critical details about different health conditions and disorders.
The advanced diagnostic imaging procedure helps in detecting traumatic brain injury, brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, scoliosis, development disorders and anomalies, infections, dementia, causes of spinal pain, back pain, headaches, and more.
What does or can a brain MRI show or reveal?
Head or brain MRI can provide detailed and critical pictures of the brain’s soft tissues. An MRI scan of the brain is used to detect causes of headache, abnormal anomalies, tumors, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, stroke, infection, and more.
However, a Brain MRI Scan can also help detect life-threatening or fatal disorders/conditions, such as tumors, cysts, brain abnormalities and damage, and stroke.
In the case of Stroke, which occurs because of blocked or damaged blood vessels in our brain – an MRI scan is used for detecting weak spots in the arteries and aneurysm diagnosis. These abnormalities cause fatal strokes.
When it comes to brain abnormalities and damages, an MRI scan can help discover structural changes in our brain. They can be development deformities, cerebral palsy, birth disorder, trauma causing brain damage, and similar conditions.
A brain or head MRI scan can also provide detailed images of the brain for the diagnosis of brain tumors or cysts – which are mostly undetectable by other diagnostic imaging modalities.
What can a cervical spine or lumbar spine MRI reveal?
A cervical spine MRI or lumbar spine MRI scan can detect multiple conditions in context to our spinal region. With a spine MRI scan, your physician can check for abnormal spinal alignments, identify spinal cord or vertebrae disorders, monitor spinal damage, detection of tumors present in our spinal cord, analyze spinal nerve or cord inflammation, evaluate the cause of your back pain, observe spinal condition after an injury or surgery.
What does Cardiac MRI show or reveal?
A cardiac MRI provides detailed images of your heart and helps healthcare providers to diagnose multiple heart conditions and disorders. They include tissue damage, blocked heart arteries, low blood flow to heart muscles, regurgitation, which is a heart valve disorder, causes of chest ache, etc.
Getting a cardiac MRI scan will help in revealing underlying damaged tissue due to heart attack, diagnose diseases like constrictive pericarditis, cancerous tumors or abnormal growths in out heart, enlarged heart, congenital health disorders, and other fatal cardiac disorders.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR AN MRI?
Different imaging studies will apply for your MRI exams, depending on what your primary doctor requires to see or analyze in your body.
The MRI creates a strong magnetic field around you and directs invisible radio waves to your body for completing the process of producing pictures of various parts of your body, like, your muscles, joints, and organs.
You’ll not feel anything during the entire process, nor even the radio waves or magnetic field. The procedure is a non-invasive and painless one.
What to do when visiting a clinic or diagnostic center for the MRI?
Some patients might require specialized predatory process before visiting the clinic or center, based on their appointment. You don’t have to worry about the preparation because the clinic or diagnostic center staff will provide you with all the details necessary to prepare for the MRI exam. Most of the time, patients are asked not to eat anything for a couple of hours before their MRI scan appointment.
What to do when you arrive at the MRI Center or clinic?
When you arrive at the clinic or diagnostic center, the front-desk staff member will check with you and ask you to fill up a specific questionnaire or form.
The questionnaire will ask you various things concerning your health. For example:
- Have you had heart surgery?
- Have you had brain surgery?
- Do you have any allergies?
- Are you pregnant?
- Are you breastfeeding?
- Do you have any implants or metallic elements in your body?
A technologist will take you for the MRI study when it is your turn.
Who is a technologist?
A technologist is a professional who operates and works with the MRI machine. S/he lets you know the entire process and guides you through it.
Once you’re ready for your MRI, you’ll have to change into a gown. It’s important to know that you will have to remove all your clothing, except your innerwear.
You’ll also have to remove your jewelry or any metal from your body, as it will interfere with the MRI machine’s magnet and power to deliver detailed, high-quality images. You can store your personal belongings in lockers that the center or clinic will provide.
Who shouldn’t get an MRI?
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive, radiation-free, and safe procedure. However, there might be cases that’ll prevent you from getting an MRI scan.
Who cannot get an MRI scan?
If you’re pregnant, you should consult your doctor before getting an MRI. Though there aren’t any proven risks involved in pregnant women, you should talk to your doctor about your situation. It is necessary because the imaging procedure consists of the use of magnetic power and radio waves. Whether they can impact your health or your baby is not known. Therefore, consult your doctor, and get an MRI.
Metal Implants Present In Your Body
Metal implants or fragments present in your body can interfere with the magnetic field of an MRI scanner. However, the metallic elements will not necessarily prevent you from getting an MRI scan.
But make sure to inform the clinic or diagnostic center’s staff about the existence of metal fractures or implants in your body. That way, they’ll work with the scanning process accordingly and with precautions.
The fact that metals mesh with magnets, the fragments, or implants can restrict an MRI system to produce precise and detailed images of the body.
So, to conclude that patients with metallic fragments or implants, cannot get an MRI, is flawed. Discuss with the MRI technologist or staff members about the same before getting the scans done. Also, it is for these discrepancies and divergence that an MRI clinic provides a questionnaire or forms to patients for accessing the right source of information before taking them to the MRI room.
Check with your doctor or the MRI diagnostic center/clinic, if you have the following metallic implants or fragments in your body.
Patients with implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD)
An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) is like a pacemaker only. The device assists in the regulation of heartbeats using electrical shocks. Its presence has often caused MRI inconsistency. Though studies have shown, there were manageable risks and side effects involved.
Patients with pacemakers
A pacemaker is an electrical device that helps in regulating an irregular heartbeat. If you have a pacemaker, you need to inform the doctor or MRI center’s technologist. The cardiac device comes with critical settings, which the powerful magnetic field of an MRI system can trigger and change.
Nerve stimulators are electrical implants. They’re used for the treatment of nerve pain. These nerve stimulators act as a contraindication for MRI procedure.
Cochlear implants are implanted internally in the ear. They’re similar to hearing aids. And since MRI uses powerful magnets to produce detailed images of a person’s body, cochlear implant recipients need to mention the metallic implants to the radiologist or technologist who will administer the scans. Cochlear implants are designed with magnets inside. Therefore, they’ll affect an MRI scan process.
Brain aneurysm clips
Brain aneurysm clips are tiny metallic clips that are used for sealing the blood vessels that are otherwise at risk of rupture in our brain. Though most aneurysm clips used today are made of titanium, it is vital to find out whether they will be compatible with an MRI system or not.
Penile implants are designed and made for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. There are two types of penile implants used for the procedure. One is a complex inflatable implant, and the other is a semi-rigid malleable implant. A malleable prosthesis might undergo alteration or react during an MRI session. So, check with the technologist, if you experience discomfort.
Drug pump implant
Drug pump implants are used for long-term treatment of pain. They directly deliver pain killing medicines to the region experiencing the pain. Implantable infusion pumps might affect the MRI system’s powerful magnetic field. Therefore, it is advisable to consult with a technologist or physician before getting an MRI scan done.
Dental bridges and fillings
Dental bridges and fillings, as such, will not cause any problem with an MRI scan. But the metallic component might distort the images.
Intrauterine device (IUD)
Intrauterine device (IUD) is a contraceptive material, made of copper and plastic. It is made to fit within the womb. Women with such contraceptive methods can get an MRI done. However, check with the technologist if you experience movement or overheating of the device due to the intense magnetic field.
Tattoos can interfere with an MRI scan based on the size of the tattoo and ingredients present in the tattoo ink. The inks can contain lead, titanium dioxide, zinc, manganese, cobalt, carbon black, nickel, and copper.
Apart from these, you should also check with a technologist for eye implants, artificial joints, surgical staples, metal wires, screws, plates, rods that are used in bone fracture surgery, and tubal ligation clips.
The concluding point is that any integrated metal element in your body will or might hinder an MRI scan. It’s best to check with an expert before going ahead with the process for your safety purposes and to access high-quality results from an MRI.
Ferromagnetic Materials are not allowed in an MRI environment
You cannot have the presence of any ferromagnetic elements in the MRI environment. Ferromagnetic is a mechanism that has an acute vulnerability to magnetization that can lead to the persistence of removal of the magnetic field in an MRI room.
How To Prepare For An MRI Scan?
On the day of your scheduled MRI scan, you will have to check in with the clinic’s or diagnostic center’s staff at the front desk. You will be asked to fill up a questionnaire or form, where you will provide all the vital details about your health – whether you’re claustrophobic, suffer from anxiety, have any metal implants in your body, got a tattoo or tattoos, etc.
When you’re scheduled appointment is ready, you will be accompanied by a nurse, who will direct you to another room. You can go alone or with any of your family members. The nurse will then check your height, weight, and blood pressure and further ask you some questions related to your body. Some patients might require getting an MRI scan with contrast.
What is an MRI scan with contrast?
Getting MRI images sometimes require particular medicine. This unique medicine is called contrast – which is a clear liquid and works as a highlighter, once injected into your body.
The contrast allows doctors to view clear pictures. So, in case you need an MRI with contrast, you will have to talk to the staff and share details about your skin type.
Once you decide whether you’ll get an MRI with contrast or MRI without contrast, you will be taken to a changing room. You’ll have to change into a gown or hospital gown, as well as, remove all clothing, wearable items, like jewelry, hair clips, etc. except for your underwear.
After you’re ready, you will be introduced to an MRI tech or technologist. S/he will take you to the MRI suite, where you will be positioned in the MRI scanner (depending on the type of MRI machine). Once you’re positioned, you will be provided with earplugs and asked to hold a squeeze ball.
What will the squeeze ball do?
The squeeze ball is given to patients so that they can squeeze whenever they feel or experience discomfort or need the attention of the MRI technologist.
How many MRI pictures will be taken during the scanning procedure?
The number depends on your physician or healthcare provider and what s/he is trying to detect or see in your body. You can also ask the MRI tech. S/he will let you know the answer.