Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Ris March 2014 040-FINALRIS at LRH has MRI units available for all your imaging needs. Our Conventional High-Field MRI is located at our Lakeland office.  MRI uses radio frequency waves and a strong magnetic field rather than radiation to provide detailed images of the body. MRI is an invaluable tool in early diagnosis. It assists physicians in evaluating the function as well as the structure of many organs. MRI is essential for the diagnosis of many conditions, including stroke, cancer, heart and vascular disease, as well as joint and musculoskeletal disorders. MRI evaluates body structures that may not be as visible with other imaging methods.

MRI is an alternative to traditional x-ray based and ultrasound imaging techniques. Breast MRI and MRI-guided breast biopsy have proven beneficial for early diagnosis of breast cancer and is many times used in addition to mammography. MRI is the best diagnostic examination of the male and female reproductive systems, pelvis and hips, and the bladder because there is no x-ray exposure.

MRI is an emerging tool for early diagnosis of prostate cancer. The benefit of this new technology for patients is that the MR images taken can potentially identify specific areas within the gland that are suspicious and require additional evaluation.  These images provide extensive summary reports that, in turn, highlight all crucial aspects of the study.  With this information, physicians will be able to communicate study results to patients in a more effective and timely manner.

MRI exams take 15 to 60 minutes, depending on how many images are needed. Very detailed studies may take longer. The technologist will leave the room as the individual MRI sequences are performed. The technologist observes the patient during the procedure. The patient may communicate during the exam through the use of an intercom in the scanner.  Our scanners are equipped with special head phones for music enjoyment; this is to help the examination time pass quickly.

MRI is a painless way to obtain diagnosis. MRI requires specialized equipment and trained physicians to interpret the exam.

Preparation and Special Instructions

No preparatory tests, diets, or medications are usually needed when undergoing an MRI.

Some patients who undergo an MRI in a conventional unit may feel confined or claustrophobic. If you are not easily reassured, a sedative may be administered. Roughly 1 in 20 patients will require medication to reduce the anxiety associated with claustrophobia. The open construction of newer MRI systems has done much to reduce this reaction.

The strong magnetic field used for MRI will exert force on any iron-based or ferromagnetic object. The MRI technologist will ask whether you have a prosthetic device, implanted port, infusion catheter (brand names Port-A-Cath, Infusaport, Lifeport), or any other implanted devices. Surgical staples, plates, pins and screws pose no risk during MRI. Tattoos, permanent eyeliner, metal zippers, and similar metallic items can distort the images, but pose no harm.

An X-ray may be acquired if you have ever had a bullet or shrapnel injury, or ever worked with metal.

Objects that will need to be removed before the MRI procedure include:

  • Jewelry
  • Watches
  • Hairpins
  • Clothing containing metal zippers, belts, or buttons
  • Removable dental work (non-removable dental work is fine, but may distort the images if scanning the facial or head area)
  • Eyeglasses
  • Hearing aides
  • Neuro-stimulator (Tens-unit)

MRI should not be performed on most people with:

  • Inner ear (cochlear) implants
  • Brain aneurysm clips
  • Some artificial heart valves
  • Heart pacemaker

If you might be pregnant, this should be mentioned to the technologist or radiologists.

What to ExpectWoman receiving an MRI Scan.

The patient will need to remain still during the imaging process. When the exam is over the patient is asked to wait until the images are examined to determine if more images are needed.

Loud tapping or knocking noises are heard at certain phases of imaging, so ear plugs are given. Some MRI units are louder than others.

During the exam you may notice a warm feeling in the area under examination; this is normal, but if it bothers you the radiologist or technologist should be notified.

Depending on the exam, a contrast material may be used to enhance the visibility of certain tissues or blood vessels. A small needle will be placed intravenously in the arm or hand. Contrast material is injected, about two-thirds of the way through the exam. The most common MR intravenous contrast agent, gadolinium, is very safe. Sequences performed with intravenous contrast may provide additional data for diagnosis.

After an MRI scan, you may resume normal diet, activity, and medication. A radiologist experienced in MRI will analyze the images and send a report with his or her interpretation to the patient’s personal physician within 24 hours or less.