Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an imaging procedure that uses magnetism, radio frequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. It's important to note that MRIs do not use radiation, unlike CT scans or X-Rays.
MRI machines come in 3 main configurations:
Below we will explore each of the three configurations along with their benefits and drawbacks.
A closed MRI machine is a cylinder-like space where the patient lies in to have the scan done. These machines typically have very strong magnets (ranging from 0.3 to 3.0 Tesla) and this allows them to produce highly detailed, high-quality images. The only drawback is they require the patient to remain completely still during the duration of the scan. For this reason, they are not always the best option for children, and for patients with claustrophobia or anxiety.
A standup MRI scanner, as the name implies, allows patients to be scanned in any position, including standing, sitting, bending or lying down.
It can position the patient for the full range of conventional “lie-down” MRI scans done in closed machines. Additionally, it is the only MRI capable of scanning patients in positions where they carry their own weight. This can help detect problems that would be underestimated or unnoticed by conventional MRI machines.
Open MRI machines differ from closed in the way that patients are not surrounded on all sides. Magnets are positioned on the top and the bottom with a large open space in the middle for the patient to lay in. For this reason, open MRI machines are a great fit for patients with claustrophobia or anxiety, as well as for children, who usually have a hard time remaining still.
These machines have less powerful magnets compared to traditional closed machines (ranging from 0.2T – 1.2T). However, the benefits for the patient often outweigh this limitation primarily because of their ease and increased patient comfort level.