What is an MRI?

May 25, 2021 | Brain and Spine Specialists

If your doctor has recently requested that you have an MRI completed, you may find yourself with a lot of questions. How does an MRI work? How long does an MRI take? What does an MRI show? This can all seem a bit overwhelming, so let us break it down for you. 

Even though the thought of an MRI machine can be intimidating, the imaging is a painless, safe, and common procedure. It is estimated that about 10 million patients get MRIs every year.

What does MRI stand for?

MRI is the abbreviation for Magnetic resonance imaging, a noninvasive means of testing used to diagnose a multitude of medical conditions and can even be useful in monitoring treatment. 

How does an MRI work?

To obtain a high-quality image, MRIs produce a strong magnetic field that forces protons in the body to align using powerful magnets that the patient is placed inside of. When the patient has a radiofrequency current pulsed through them, the protons are stimulated and strain against the pull of the magnetic field. When the radiofrequency field is turned off, the MRI sensors detect the energy released as the protons realign with the magnetic field. The faster the protons realign, the brighter the image. During the procedure, you will need to remain still to ensure the highest quality images are captured for diagnosis.

How long does an MRI take?

During your imaging, you will be required to lie still in the open-ended magnet. Depending on the body part that is being examined, an MRI can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. During the process, we will be taking hundreds, sometimes thousands of high-quality images to ensure a full view of the area is depicted.

What does an MRI show?

MRIs are a valuable tool because of their ability to show high-quality images of the soft tissue parts of the body. They differ from CT scans in that they do not use the damaging radiation of x-rays. The brain, spinal cord, nerves, muscles, ligaments, and tendons are seen more clearly with MRI. In the brain, MRI can differentiate between white matter and grey matter and can also be used to diagnose aneurysms and tumors. 

At the Brain and Spine Center, we strive to calm your anxieties and provide the answers you’re looking for. Our knowledgeable staff is here to help you benefit from a life-saving diagnostic device with as little stress as possible!