Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is a way of obtaining very detailed images of organs and tissues throughout the body without the need for x-rays or “ionizing” radiation. Instead, MRI uses a powerful magnetic field, radio waves, rapidly changing magnetic fields, and a computer to create images that show whether or not there is an injury, disease process, or abnormal condition present. For the MRI procedure, the patient is placed inside of the MR scanner—typically a large, tunnel or doughnut-shaped device that is open at both ends. The powerful magnetic field aligns atomic particles called protons that are present in most of the body’s tissues. The applied radio waves then cause these protons to produce signals that are picked up by a receiver within the MR scanner. The signals are specially characterized using the rapidly changing magnetic field, and, with the help of computer processing, very clear images of tissues are created as “slices” that can be viewed in any orientation.
An MRI examination causes no pain, and the magnetic fields produce no known tissue damage of any kind. The MR scanner may make loud tapping, knocking or other noises at times during the procedure; using earplugs prevents problems that may be associated with this noise. You will be able to communicate with the MRI technologist or radiologist at any time using an intercom system or by other means.