- Education and Science
Calling Dr House Have You Seen the MRI?
We've All Seen It on TV
Any one, who has watched any medically oriented shows like House, has seen an MRI machine. I have never been in one but I imagine that it might be just a little intimidating.
A magnetic resonance imaging scanner looks futuristic with its long tube and giant circular magnet. The patient will slide into the magnet, which will produce a magnetic field strong enough to align the protons of hydrogen atoms within the body. Next, radio waves spin the protons in the body, which creates a faint signal that the radiology MRI receiver picks up and sends to a computer, where the data is processed and an image is produced. As strange as it sounds, these images are detailed and the resolution is impressive.
Radiologists use the MRI technique in diagnosing and determining treatment for medical problems. Neurosurgeons use an MRI scan to evaluate brain, neck and spinal cord injury following an accident. They can find crushed discs or vertebrae and they can look for internal bleeding, swelling, rips or aneurysms. Cardiologists use the MRI to look at the heart and aorta, not to mention clogging and perforations. Diseases, tumors, unusual growths and damaged soft tissue are all evident with an MRI of the brain and body.
There are no proven side effects of a magnetic resonance imaging scan; however, not all patients are able to have an MRI done. For instance, people with metallic chips, surgical clips, insulin pumps, chemotherapy, artificial joints, bullet fragments, metallic bone plates, prosthetics or pacemakers cannot receive the test because the images will come out distorted and the metal may move around. During the scan, the patient will lie very still inside a magnetic tube as their bodies are scanned. A mild sedative is sometimes administered to reduce the claustrophobia anxiety that may ensue from being strapped down in such an enclosed space. If the patient begins to panic, a button may be pressed to alert nearby staff. Generally speaking, though, the procedure is not a big deal for most patients.
After the magnetic resonance imaging is completed, the computer stores the visual images of the body parts that were scanned. These images are then transferred to film to keep a hard copy. Radiologists, a class of specially trained physicians, will then interpret the results and draw up a report for the patient's primary practitioner. Lastly, the results are discussed with the patient and/or the family during a regular doctor visit. From there, a diagnosis will be given and treatment options will be discussed.