Cape Town MRI | What is MRI
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What is MRI

An imaging technique used to visualize the soft tissue inside your body. MRI combines a powerful magnet with radio-frequency pulses. These collect signals, which are then processed by a sophisticated computer, form pictures of the inside of your body. The images can then be examined on a computer monitor, transmitted electronically or copied onto CD. MRI gives highly detailed pictures of the soft tissues within the body, for example muscles and ligaments.  MRI can be utilized in a wide range of investigations: from slipped discs and brain tumors, to painful or injured joints, to the assessment of blood flow. Magnetic resonance imaging uses non ionizing radiation, unlike x-rays which uses radiation.

When are MRI scans used?

An MRI scan can be used as an extremely accurate method of disease detection throughout the body and is most often used after the other testing fails to provide sufficient information to confirm a patient’s diagnosis. In the head, trauma to the brain can be seen as bleeding or swelling. Other abnormalities often found include brain aneurysms, stroke, tumors of the brain, as well as tumors or inflammation of the spine.

Neurosurgeons use an MRI scan not only in defining brain anatomy but in evaluating the integrity of the spinal cord after trauma. It is also used when considering problems associated with the vertebrae or intervertebral discs of the spine. An MRI scan can evaluate the structure of the heart and aorta, where it can detect aneurysms or tears. MRI scans are not the first line of imaging test for these issues or in cases of trauma.

It provides valuable information on glands and organs within the abdomen, and accurate information about the structure of the joints, soft tissues, and bones of the body. Often, surgery can be deferred or more accurately directed after knowing the results of an MRI scan.

What is an MRI scan?

An MRI (or magnetic resonance imaging) scan is a radiology technique that uses magnetism, radio waves, and a computer to produce images of body structures. The MRI scanner is a tube surrounded by a giant circular magnet. The patient is placed on a moveable bed that is inserted into the magnet. The magnet creates a strong magnetic field that aligns the protons of hydrogen atoms, which are then exposed to a beam of radio waves. This spins the various protons of the body, and they produce a faint signal that is detected by the receiver portion of the MRI scanner. The receiver information is processed by a computer, and an image is produced.

The image and resolution produced by MRI is quite detailed and can detect tiny changes of structures within the body. For some procedures, contrast agents, such as gadolinium, are used to increase the accuracy of the images.