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What does an MRI show?

MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, is a medical diagnostic test that combines a strong magnetic field, radio waves, and a computer to create detailed images of the inside of the body. Unlike X-rays or CT scans, which use radiation, MRI does not expose the patient to any harmful substances.

One of the main benefits of MRI is that it can provide highly detailed images of the soft tissues of the body, such as the brain, spine, and muscles. It can also be used to view the bones and joints, although the images may not be as detailed as those obtained from an X-ray or CT scan.

MRI works by aligning the hydrogen atoms in the body with the magnetic field. When radio waves are transmitted through the body, they disrupt the alignment of the hydrogen atoms, which produces a signal detected by a sensor. The time it takes for the atoms to return to their original alignment is used to create an image of the body’s tissues.

A contrast agent, which contains a substance called gadolinium, may be injected into the patient’s bloodstream to help enhance certain tissues on the MRI scan. Gadolinium has magnetic properties, so it is absorbed by certain tissues in the body and appears on the scan as a brighter area. The contrast agent is typically used to highlight the blood vessels or to help identify certain abnormalities, such as tumors.

MRI can be used to view a wide range of body parts and can be particularly useful in diagnosing various conditions, such as brain tumors, strokes, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injuries. It can also detect abnormalities in the bones and joints, such as herniated discs, pinched nerves, and fractures.

There are several different types of MRI scanners, including standard MRI, which looks like a long tube, and open MRI, which is more open and can be more comfortable for patients who are claustrophobic or have a larger body size. There are also specialized MRI scanners designed to create more detailed images of specific body parts, such as the heart or prostate.

While MRI is generally considered safe, it can be contraindicated for patients with certain medical conditions, such as a pacemaker or an aneurysm clip. It is also not recommended for pregnant women, as the magnetic field’s effects on the developing baby are not fully understood.

Overall, MRI is a valuable diagnostic tool that can provide detailed images of the inside of the body and help doctors diagnose various medical conditions. If you have been referred for an MRI, it is essential to discuss any concerns you may have with your doctor beforehand.

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