An MRI scanner is used to take advance imaging of any part of the body (e.g. head, joints, abdomen, legs) to provide a better soft tissue contrast than a CT or X-ray and can better differentiate between fat, muscle and other soft tissues. These images provide useful information to help physicians and radiologist better diagnose a wide variety of diseases & conditions.
MRI images are done without using any ionizing radiation, so patients are not exposed to the harmful impact of radiation. While there are no known health hazards from temporary exposures to the magnetic resonance environment, it involves a strong, static magnetic field and radiofrequency energy, each of which carry specific safety concerns:
- Magnetic fields: The strong magnetic field attract magnetic objects (e.g. keys, cell phones, or also pacemakers), so patients are advised to remove all magnetic objects and the ones with medical devices are not allowed such procedure.
- Hearing loss: Change in magnetic fields can create loud knocking noises which might harm hearing if adequate ear protection is not used. Similarly, they can also cause a twitching sensation, which is not harmful to the body.
- Heating of body: The radiofrequency energy used during the MRI scan could lead to heating of certain body parts. The potential heating is greater during long examination. Please tell you technician if you feel anything unusual during your exam.
- Risks related to contrast agent: The use of gadolinium-based contrast agents also carries some extra risk, that could lead to allergic reactions. See FDA guidance on this topic (GBCAs) for more information
- Claustrophobia: Some exams might take up to 90 minutes and few patients can find the inside of the MRI scanner uncomfortably small and may experience claustrophobia. If you suffer from this condition, you can opt for the Open MRI machine, which makes this experience much easier.
MRI cannot be performed on patients with:
- Implanted pacemakers
- Intracranial aneurysm clips
- Cochlear implants
- Certain prosthetic devices
- Implanted drug infusion pumps
- Bone-growth stimulators
- Certain intrauterine contraceptive devices; or Any other type of iron-based metal implants.
If you are pregnant or suspect that you might be pregnant, please notify your physician. Due to potential for a harmful increase in the temperature of the amniotic fluid MRI is not advised for pregnant patients.
Just in case, always ask for doctor referral to ensure that an MRI is right fit for your needs.
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