Magnetic Resonance Imaging

What is Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and its use

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic test that allows obtaining very detailed images of the interior of the body, from any perspective and in both two and three dimensions.

This test is carried out through the use of a device called an MRI scanner, which obtains images of the interior of the body by processing radio waves that pass through the patient while he is subjected to a powerful magnetic field, which is totally harmless to the body, without any adverse effect.

Magnetic resonance imaging is performed on the specific part of the body where the problem is suspected, allowing a wide variety of injuries and pathologies to be diagnosed. Some of these uses for MRI include the following:

  • In the head it allows locating and seeing tumors, abscesses, aneurysms, bleeding, stroke or nerve injuries… as well as studying pathologies in the eyes, in the ear and degenerative brain pathologies.
  • Study the cardiac anatomy or pathologies of the coronary arteries as well as examine the blood vessels to locate thrombi, infarcts, aneurysms, malformations or bleeding.
  • Study and diagnosis of breast cancer or lung tumors.
  • Study organs such as the pancreas, kidneys, liver, uterus and ovaries in women or prostate in men, in order to locate tumors, infections, malformations or other problems.
  • Diagnose bone and joint problems such as arthritis, fractures, ligament, tendon or cartilage problems. In these, also tumors or infections can be viewed.
  • Study spinal problems, such as herniated discs.

In many cases, the patient is administered a contrast liquid (called gadolinium) with which the organs studied in the test are highlighted in the image. Unlike the contrast used when doing a CT scan, it is not composed of iodine, so it is very unlikely to cause allergic reactions. In the rare cases where contrast can still cause some kind of reaction or side effect in the patient, MRI without contrast is possible.

How is MRI performed

To perform the MRI, the patient must lie on a table that is inserted into the MRI scanner, which is shaped like a tube and where they must remain still during the test, which usually lasts about 30 to 60 minutes.

Before starting the test, it is necessary for the patient to remove all metal objects and, depending on the case, it may be necessary for the patient to change clothes into a hospital gown. When the use of a contrast is necessary, it is administered intravenously before the test begins.

If necessary, to prevent movement during the test, the arms, head and/or chest can be secured with straps. A device is also placed on the patient’s chest to monitor their heart rate and breathing during the test.

During the MRI, the scanner makes a lot of noise during its operation, so it is common for the patient to be provided with earplugs or headphones to listen to music, reducing the noise and helping the patient to relax.

While the procedure is being carried out, a specialist will monitor the patient’s condition at all times, the patient being able to communicate with said specialist at any time. Depending on the problem being diagnosed by this test, the patient may be instructed to hold their breath for a few seconds.

Although the images obtained by MRI can be seen immediately, they need to be interpreted and analyzed in detail by the specialist, so the results are usually communicated to the patient within a few days of the test.

Depending on the case, sometimes it is necessary to repeat the test to see how certain injuries or pathologies evolve, either after a certain time or after performing some treatment.

Advantages and disadvantages of MRI

Among the advantages of MRI is the fact that it is a very safe test, since unlike Computerized Tomography (CT) or radiography, MRI does not use ionizing radiation (X-rays), being totally harmless to the body.

In addition, MRI is capable of providing more details than a tomography, being useful in the case of pathologies that cannot be seen by ultrasound or CT, but that are visible with an MRI. It is also useful as an alternative to tomography when it cannot be performed because the patient is allergic to the iodinated contrast used in CT.

As disadvantages, in the first place is the fact that due to the magnetic field, in order to perform the test, it is essential that the patient does not carry any metallic object on the body, such as plates, screws, heart valves, shrapnel, etc. nor other medical devices that can be affected by magnetism: pacemakers, defibrillator, cochlear implant… Some prostheses are made of materials that are safe to perform an MRI and others are not, so you should always inform the specialist of any metal objects, prostheses or devices that you may wear on your body before performing the MRI test.

Another drawback is the fact that the test takes longer than a CT scan, so it is not normally used in emergencies that need quick results, such as serious injuries or strokes.

Finally, the interior of the scanner is quite a narrow space, so the patient may feel anxious, especially in the case of people with claustrophobia. In these cases, medication can be given to the patient to relax, or even sedation if necessary. Also, in the case of very obese patients they may not fit in the scanner. There are open MRI scanners that solve these two problems, with a larger tube and open on one side, although they have the disadvantage that the images from these open machines are not as sharp as those from standard closed scanners.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging and other diagnostic tests at Vithas Xanit Internacional

Whether it is a routine checkup or a test to diagnose a specific problem, remember that at Vithas Xanit Internacional we put at your disposal the best specialists who, together with the most advanced technology, both for MRI and for any other diagnostic test, allow us to offer you the most complete reviews and the most accurate diagnoses. Do not hesitate to contact us for more information or make an appointment.

Vithas hospitals are safe hospitals

Vithas’ 19 hospitals are safe hospitals for patients and professionals thanks to the implementation of strict safety protocols against covid-19. Among the measures implemented, the establishment of two different circuits stands out: one for people with symptoms compatible with covid-19, and the other for other patients.

Additionally, we supply masks and hydroalcoholic gel to all people who come to the hospital for any reason. In addition, the Group is carrying out massive virus detection tests on all personnel, who are equipped with all the necessary self-protection measures.

A security that has always been reinforced thanks to the fact that all Vithas hospitals implement the strict protocols of the Joint Commission International, world reference body that accredits patient safety and healthcare excellence.

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