Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body. It doesn't use any radiation.
A magnetic resonance imaging scanner is a large tube that contains powerful magnets. An MRI scan can examine almost any part of the body, including:
- Brain and spinal cord
- Bones and joints
- Heart and blood vessels
- Internal organs such as the liver, uterus and prostate gland
The results of an MRI scan help diagnose conditions, plan treatments and assess how effective previous treatments have been.
Preparing for Your MRI Scan
Before your MRI exam, eat normally and continue to take your usual medications, unless otherwise instructed. If any other prep is required you will be notified in advance.
What to Expect at Your Appointment
You will be given an arrival time for your appointment which is typically 30 minutes prior to your actual scan time. Some exams require you to arrive earlier than 30 minutes ahead of time. We will let you know if an earlier arrival is necessary.
You will complete a magnetic resonance imaging screening form, change into a gown and remove things that might affect or pose a safety risk to the magnetic imaging.
- Hearing aids
- Underwire bras
- Continuous glucose monitor
During the exam you will lie inside the tube and hear a loud tapping noise during each scan. We will give you ear plugs or headphones to muffle the noise. Depending on the type of exam ordered, you may receive a contrast injection that will require an IV to be started.
It is very important that you do not move during the entire scan. Most MRIs take between 30 and 90 minutes, depending on how many areas of the body need to be scanned.
A board-certified radiologist with specialized magnetic resonance training reviews your images and provides the results to your ordering provider typically within three business days. Please contact your provider for results. If you are enrolled in MyChart®, you can find your results there as well.
Accreditations and Certifications
All magnetic resonance imaging equipment is accredited by the American College of Radiology (ACR).
All technologists who perform MRI exams are nationally board certified in MRI.
Our radiology department team is working on or implementing these new MRI applications and practices.
- MR Spectroscopy. This noninvasive diagnostic test measures biochemical changes in the brain, especially the presence of tumors. While magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) identifies the anatomical location of a tumor, MR spectroscopy compares the chemical composition of normal brain tissue with abnormal tumor tissue. It is very helpful in determining areas of necrosis vs. normal brain tissue, as well as being used to evaluate arterial vascular malformations (AVM).
- MR Focused Ultrasound. By combining ultrasound technology and magnetic resonance (MR), doctors can use ultrasound technology to target tissue deep in the body without incisions or radiation. With focused ultrasound, multiple intersecting beams of ultrasound energy are focused on to a precise spot of diseased tissue. The resulting heating of the tissue causes destruction of a targeted area, similar to how beams of light from a magnifying glass can burn a hole in a leaf. The treatment destroys targeted cells without damaging the adjacent area.
- Functional Brain mapping (fMRI). Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) measures the metabolic changes that occur within the brain. It may be used to examine the brain’s anatomy, determine which parts of the brain are handling critical functions, evaluate the effects of stroke or disease, or guide brain treatment. fMRI may detect abnormalities within the brain that cannot be found with other imaging techniques. During the fMRI scan you will be asked to perform tasks that help to identify those critical areas of the brain that help allow you to be able to perform them. This helps the surgeon identify areas of the brain to avoid during surgery.
- Neuroreader (Brainreader). A post processing technique that provides a self-explanatory patient report with total brain volume, hippocampal volume and volumetric data on key segments of the brain measured against a healthy database.
- Interventional MRI (iMRI). Interventional MRI can be used for a variety of specialized procedures. iMRI systems are often used for doing biopsies of lesions, resections of tumors, guiding thermal ablation of tissue, as well as other procedures. It is commonly used in neurosurgery where every millimeter of tissue spared in surgery can make a difference for patient recovery. An iMRI scanner can also be used to guide minimally-invasive procedures intraoperatively and/or interactively as well.
- Elastography. Magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) works by combining MRI imaging with sound waves to create a visual map (elastogram) showing the stiffness of body tissues. MRE is used to detect hardening of the liver caused by many kinds of chronic liver disease. MRE also has potential as a noninvasive way to diagnose diseases in other parts of the body.
More MRI Resources
The American College of Radiology and the Radiological Society of North America offer detailed information on MRI procedures. Learn more.