If you’re in the middle of a health scare, doctors and nurses have probably been throwing acronyms and medical terms at you like candy. Ultrasound. Radiology. MRI. These are all scary words not least of which because we aren’t sure exactly what they mean beyond what we’ve seen on television dramas. Today, we’d like to demystify the MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging. Our hope is that if you understand better about what the MRI does, it will take some of the fear out of this process and empower you to make more informed decisions about your health.
What does an MRI do?
The best way to think of an MRI is a camera that got ambitious. So ambitious that, using a combination of magnetism and radio waves, it can take 3D pictures of organs and tissue inside your body in sessions ranging between half an hour to two hours. There are many different kinds of MRIS. You might hear the term open MRI for instance, which denotes an MRI machine that is open at one end to reduce the risk of claustrophobia on the part of the patient. A lot of MRI machines will also have a set power capability on the tesla scale. For instance, the “new thing” in MRI technology is the 3 tesla MRI. A 3 tesla MRI is half again as powerful as the standard 1.5 tesla MRI, so if you can, opt for a 3 tesla MRI scan when you go. Now, the real question…
When should I go get an MRI?
30 million MRI scans are performed annually for a multitude of reasons. Common reasons are to suss out evidence of:
-A skeletal injury
The key thing to remember is that an MRI is the gold standard of resonance imaging. Usually, the first stop would be an X-ray or a CT scan, but if whatever you’re worried about has to deal with soft tissue or is proving difficult to diagnose, an MRI is the next logical step because it provides the most information.
When to seek alternatives to an MRI
MRIs are not always your best option. You will want to avoid an MRI or ask your doctor about the risks if any of the following criteria apply to you:
-You have known chronic kidney problems
-There is metal such as pins, stents, or artificial heart valves in your body
-You are pregnant or nursing
-You have tattoos. (Tattoos are a lesser risk and most likely you will feel an uncomfortable burning sensation around the parts of your tattoo that are in darker ink).
Some people don’t want to start getting tests done because they don’t want to admit that there might be a problem. Don’t fall into that category. There are powerful tools like the MRI at your disposal that can help you get in front of whatever you’re facing.