Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What Is Magnetic Resonance Imaging? by Kathryn Dawson

An MRI scan is a non-invasive scan of the human body. The scan provides images that can then be used to help diagnose illnesses and conditions such as cancer. There are various ways that that the body can be scanned, an MRI is however one of the most common and effective ways of doing so.

A magnetic resonance image is taken by surrounding the specific region of the body being examined by a very intense magnetic field through which radio waves are sent. When the radio waves are directed to a specific part of the body, the nuclei of the atoms in that area give off energy that can be detected by a computer. The computer works as a translator, creating an image from the pattern of magnetic energy that emerges. The image created is of high resolution and can be interpreted by a radiologist looking for abnormalities or changes. An MRI is commonly used for brain scans in particular. A technique called functional MRI is often used whereby the patient is asked to carry out simple tasks such as speaking whilst the scan is being carried out so changes to the brain during the activity can be seen and measured. Multiple pictures can be taken and then compared to see the changes that occur to blood flow and oxygenation in the specific portions of the brain being used during the activity or task.

An MRI is very effective at producing a useful image of the interior of the body. Depending on the area being focused on, the images can reveal the presence of tumors in the body, slipped discs, degeneration of the hips and other bones, defects in tissue and blocked arteries. It is one of the most effective ways that can be used to diagnose health problems. Radiologists are specially trained physicians who interpret the data and provide the diagnosis as a result of the scan. Cardiologists often call on this method for examining the heart closely in order to see signs of disease and blocked arteries. Neurosurgeons too order an MRI scan for patients with possible crushed discs and vertebrae or damage to the neck and spinal cord. MRI scans can also display internal bleeding, aneurysms and swelling of the brain.

An MRI is a completely painless experience and patients by no means have to be admitted to hospital for even a night to have the scan carried out. The picture provided is much clearer than that given by an x-ray and furthermore, no ionizing radiation is used to produce the image. There are no side effects and although some patients do not like the feeling of being enclosed, generally the experience is simple and free from anxiety. People who have had metallic plates or pins used in their bodies in the past may not be able to have an MRI scan, and neither will those with prosthetic limbs, pacemakers or other artificial joints. The reason is that the images may come out skewed and therefore impossible to interpret correctly. A patient who has undergone chemotherapy may also be unable to have this particular type of scan.

Once the scan is complete, the computer will store a copy. By viewing the images on screen, the pictures are clearer and problems are easier to spot. A picture archiving & communication system allows images to be retrieved easily and compared with other scans too for more effective diagnosis and treatment.

Magnetic resonance imaging is a very effective scan that can be used on all parts of the body. It provides a clear picture for a physician to be able to diagnose and treat a host of serious illnesses and diseases. Because of its usefulness and success rate, it is one of the most useful diagnostic medical imaging scans that exist today. A PACS imaging system takes MRI scans one step further by allowing a filmless process for improved diagnosis.