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What is MRI scan?
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is a medical procedure in which human body organs and structures can be viewed using a large magnet and radio waves.
What is MRI scan used for?
MRI scan is most useful for scanning the brain and spinal cord. It is also used to scan the chest, abdomen, blood vessel and bones.
MRI scan helps to diagnose various medical conditions and diseases. It detects any abnormalities such as tumors, infection, injury, bleeding or diseases of the blood vessels. An MRI scan may also be performed to examine a problem that has been detected in an x-ray, CT scan or ultrasound scan.
How is an MRI scan performed?
An MRI scan is performed by an MRI technologist. The patient is required to lie down on a narrow table that goes into an MRI scan machine. The patient’s head, chest, and arms may be strapped to keep the patient still during the procedure. The table then slides into the MRI machine that contains the magnet. The area that needs to be scanned may be wrapped with a tool called coil. A belt may be used to monitor the breathing and heartbeat of the patient. This prompts the MRI scanner to perform the scan at the accurate time.
During an MRI scan, contrast dyes may be used to enhance the visibility of any abnormalities that are inspected. It is provided though an IV line into the patient’s arm.
During the MRI scan, the patients may be given earplugs to keep out the noise produced by the MRI machine. The patient is required to be completely still during the procedure. From time to time, the patient may also need to hold the breath for short intervals. The technologist will be able to watch the patient through a window. The patient can talk to the technologist during the MRI scan by means of a two-way intercom.
Claustrophobic patients may be given sedatives to help them relax during the MRI scan. There are some open MRI scanners in which the magnet does not surround the patient’s body. However, these kinds of scanners are not easily available. Even the images produced by an open MRI may be of a slightly inferior quality than those produced by a standard MRI scanner.
How to prepare for an MRI scan?
Duration of procedure/surgery:
- The patient should inform the doctor about their medical conditions such as pregnancy. The doctor should also be informed:
- If the patient contains metal pieces in the body, e.g. bullet or shrapnel injury, etc.
- If the patient contains electronic devices in the body, e.g. cardiac pacemaker, etc.
- If the patient has had prior surgery
- Patients are required to remove all metal jewelry and electronic devices that they have with them.
- If the patient is undergoing an MRI scan for the examination of the bile ducts, known as magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRPC), consumption of solid and liquid food is stopped 2 to 3 hours before the test.
- Contrast dyes may be used to enhance the visibility of any abnormalities that are inspected. It is provided though an IV line into the patient’s arm.
Usually 30 to 60 minutes. Some procedures can take up to 2 hours.
None. An MRI scan is done as an outpatient procedure.
None. Sedatives may be provided to claustrophobic patients to help them relax.
- After the MRI scan, visual images of the examined area will be generated by the computer. The images are made into hard copy films. The interpretation of these images is sent out as a report.
- The initial results of an MRI scan are discussed with the patient by a radiologist. The complete results may take 1 to 2 days.
- An MRI scan may detect problems, even if the size and shape of the examined organ or tissue looks normal.
- After the procedure, the IV used to provide the contrast is removed from the patient’s arm.
- If patients have been sedated, they will be discharged only after they are fully awake and free from the effects of the sedatives.
Complications arising due to an MRI scan are very rare.
- These risks may arise if the patient has metal objects inside the body. In such cases the magnet will cause the metal to move and lead to injury.
- Allergic reaction to the contrast dye may occur, which is also very rare.
- Patients who have received sedatives should not drive after being discharged.
- Patients may return to normal activities after an MRI scan.