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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), also known as

nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, is a scanning
technique for creating detailed images of the human

The scan uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to

generate images of parts of the body that can't be seen
as well with X-rays, CT scans or ultrasound. For example,
it can help doctors to see inside joints, cartilage,
ligaments, muscles and tendons, which make it helpful
for detecting various sports injuries.

MRI is also used to examine internal body structures and

diagnose a variety of disorders, such as strokes, tumors,
aneurysms, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis and
eye or inner ear problems, according to the Mayo Clinic.
It is also widely used in research to measure brain
structure and function, among other things. The biggest
benefit of MRI compared with other imaging techniques
(such as CT scans and x-rays) is, there's no risk of being
exposed to radiation.
What to expect
During an MRI, a person will be asked to lie on a movable
table that will slide into a doughnut-shaped opening of
the machine to scan a specific portion of your body. The
machine itself will generate a strong magnetic field
around the person and radio waves will be directed at
the body, according to the Mayo Clinic.

A person will not feel the magnetic field or radio waves,

so the procedure itself is painless. However, there may
be a lot of loud thumping or tapping noises during the
scan (it may sound like a sledgehammer!), so people are
often given headphones to listen to music or earplugs to
help block the sound. A technician may also give
instructions to you during the test.

Some people may be given a contrast solution by

intravenous, a liquid dye that can highlight specific
problems that might not show up otherwise on the scan.

Young children as well as people who feel claustrophobic

in enclosed places may be given sedating medication to
help them relax or fall asleep during the scan because it
is important to stay as still as possible to get clear
images. Movement can blur the images.

Some hospitals might have an open MRI machine that is

open on the sides rather than the tunnel-like tube found
in a traditional machine. This may be a helpful alternative
for people who feel afraid of confined spaces.

The scan itself may take 30 to 60 minutes, on average,

according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

A radiologist will look at the images and send a report to

your doctor with your test results.
How it works

The human body is mostly water. Water molecules (H2O)

contain hydrogen nuclei (protons), which become aligned
in a magnetic field. An MRI scanner applies a very strong
magnetic field (about 0.2 to 3 teslas, or roughly a
thousand times the strength of a typical fridge magnet),
which aligns the proton "spins."
The scanner also produces a radio frequency current that
creates a varying magnetic field. The protons absorb the
energy from the magnetic field and flip their spins. When
the field is turned off, the protons gradually return to
their normal spin, a process called precession. The return
process produces a radio signal that can be measured by
receivers in the scanner and made into an image, Filippi
An MRI scan reveals the gross anatomical structure of
the human brain.
An MRI scan reveals the gross anatomical structure of
the human brain.
Protons in different body tissues return to their normal
spins at different rates, so the scanner can distinguish
among various types of tissue. The scanner settings can
be adjusted to produce contrasts between different body
tissues. Additional magnetic fields are used to produce 3-
dimensional images that may be viewed from different
angles. There are many forms of MRI, but diffusion MRI
and functional MRI
MRI safety

Unlike other imaging forms like X-rays or CT scans, MRI

doesn't use ionizing radiation. MRI is increasingly being
used to image fetuses during pregnancy, and no adverse
effects on the fetus have been demonstrated, Filippi said.

Still, the procedure can have risks, and medical societies

don't recommend using MRI as the first stage of

Because MRI uses strong magnets, any kind of metal

implant, such as a pacemaker, artificial joints, artificial
heart valves, cochlear implants or metal plates, screws or
rods, pose a hazard. The implant can move or heat up in
the magnetic field.

Several patients with pacemakers who underwent MRI

scans have died, patients should always be asked about
any implants before getting scanned. Many implants
today are "MR-safe," however, Filippi said.

The constant flipping of magnetic fields can produce loud

clicking or beeping noises, so ear protection is necessary
during the scan.o of the most common.