Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a medical diagnostic procedure that uses magnetic fields and radio wave pulses to form pictures of the body’s internal organs and structures. In many cases, magnetic resonance imaging offers better snapshots of a patient’s state of health than things like CT scans, ultrasounds or X-rays. Magnetic resonance imaging machines are very expensive and, as such, are not as common as other diagnostic machines, such as the ubiquitous X-ray machine. When a medical facility purchases an MRI machine, it often runs on a near round-the-clock schedule in order to both recoup the cost of the machine and service all of the patients who require an magnetic resonance imaging diagnosis. Magnetic resonance imaging scans are typically helpful in locating tumors, injury to bones or soft tissue, or the source of bleeding such as with an aneurysm. Brain MRIs are particularly helpful in determining the extent of damage after a stroke. A special procedure called magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) is used to look at blood vessels and blood flow during an magnetic resonance imaging procedure.
Patients do not typically feel pain during a magnetic resonance imaging test, but some do report feeling uncomfortable after having stayed in the same position for so long. In most cases, the area of body that is being examined will heat up and feel warm to the touch. People who have pacemakers, artificial limbs or who are pregnant are not usually candidates for magnetic resonance imaging. There are currently no known negative long-term side effects from magnetic resonance imaging, although close contact with high powered magnets or radio waves is not recommended unless absolutely necessary.
The images that result from the scan are displayed in real-time to the machine operator on a color monitor; this person typically sits in a control booth, safely shielded from any magnetic activity. The pictures created during an magnetic resonance imaging scan can be save digitally and shared just like any other electronic file. The results are not official until read by a trained radiologists and, in many cases, the technologist will refuse to opine on the results. Patients who undergo an MRI will usually receive a copy of the pictures to be used for future medical purposes