• What Is An MRI Scan?
|What Is An MRI Scan?
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive test that provides images of inside the body. Available since the 1980s, its main advantage over other imaging techniques (like X-rays or CT scans) is that it does not emit potentially damaging radiation, nor does it generally require the use of contrast dyes. An MRI scan is particularly useful in providing detailed information on the soft tissues of the body. It has supplanted traditional X-rays for diagnosing conditions of the brain, heart and muscles. It is especially helpful in diagnosing cancers, strokes, multiple sclerosis and disorders of muscle tissue.
What Is The Most Common Reason For Having An MRI?
The most common reason people have an MRI is to diagnose the severity of a sprained ankle or the cause of back pain.
When you arrive in hospital for your scan you will be asked to remove all your clothing and wear a gown. You will also need to remove:
It depends on how many images need to be taken. If restricted to one area of the body, such as the lower back, it should only take about 30 minutes. If the whole body needs testing, you could be there for 90 minutes.
No, an MRI is completely painless. Some patients may find it difficult to lie still for so long while others feel slightly claustrophobic in the tunnel. Newer more open MRI scanners can reduce the feeling of claustrophobia although they are not always as effective because the magnetic field is not as strong. However, for many conditions, the field is strong enough to provide an accurate diagnosis. If you are worried about feeling claustrophobic you can ask for a sedative to help you relax.
Occasionally an MRI contrast dye is required for some examinations. This dye is injected into the bloodstream to enhance the appearance of blood vessels, inflammation and tumors. A contrast agent can also be injected directly into a joint, to enhance the appearance. This is known as an MRI arthrogram.
There are no known health risks associated with MRI scans - 10 million patients a year undergo the procedure. There are however some restrictions:
You are unlikely to know the results of your scan straight away. The images will need to be studied by the radiologist and possibly shared with other specialists. The radiologist will discuss the results with the doctor who arranged your scan, who will then pass the results on to you. This may take about a week, unless the results are needed urgently.
An MRI scan is more expensive than a CT scan, and significantly more expensive than a traditional X-ray. The average cost of an MRI in hospital is between $1,700 and $2,200. Outpatient imaging centers which specialize in medical tests are usually cheaper - ranging from $700 to $1,000. The price will depend on the area to be scanned - a single area scan is cheaper than a body scan.
An MRI scan takes longer to perform than a CT scan, and is more expensive. It’s advantage however is that it provides much more detail of soft tissue. An MRI is usually the test of choice when investigating heart, brain or spinal cord damage.
It is an MRI scan of the head. It provides clear pictures of the brain tissue (which would not be clearly seen on a CT scan). The procedure is the same as described above.
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