Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a medical imaging technique that uses a magnetic field and computer-generated radio waves to create detailed images of the organs and tissues in your body.
Most MRI machines are large, tube-shaped magnets. When you lie inside an MRI machine, the magnetic field temporarily realigns water molecules in your body. Radio waves cause these aligned atoms to produce faint signals, which are used to create cross-sectional MRI images — like slices in a loaf of bread.
The MRI machine can also produce 3D images that can be viewed from different angles.
Most patients are comfortable and relaxed during the procedure. Some even fall asleep.
During the examination, you will be asked to rest motionless on a padded table for 30 to 90 minutes depending on the area of your body being scanned. The anatomic area of interest will be positioned in the centre of the magnet.
There is generally no special preparation required prior to the examination.
Some MRI examinations require the use of a non-iodine containing injectable contrast material to increase the sensitivity of the examination and achieve additional information. The contrast material is injected into a vein using a very small needle. The decision to use the contrast material will be made by the referring physician and/or radiologist. Some of the more common reasons for injection of contrast include 1) assessing for recurrent disc herniation after surgery, 2) assessing for infection or inflammation, and 3) assessing for spinal masses.
It is always preferrable to eat light meals or do not eat for several hours before the test since it would be uncomfortable to go through the examination on a full stomach as contrast material rarely can cause nausea.
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