Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is medicine's most advanced method for imaging particular parts of your body. MRI is widely used for imaging the brain and central nervous system, the spine for spinal cord and disc disorders, joints such as the knee, shoulder, hips and ankles, the heart and great vessels, and internal organs such as the liver, kidneys, pancreas, uterus and ovaries. An MRI exam often replaces the need for time consuming, expensive, and painful surgery.
An MRI exam is a painless procedure that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to temporarily manipulate the molecules in your body. When placed in a strong magnetic field, the protons in molecules align themselves in the same direction as the magnetic field - just like the needle of a compass aligns itself with the North Pole.
A radio signal causes the protons to move out of alignment with the magnetic field. When the signal ends, the protons realign themselves and release a slightly different radio signal depending upon the type of tissue they are located in. For example, the signal released by protons in fat will be different from the signal released by protons in muscle. By analyzing these signals, a powerful computer can construct a finely detailed image of your body.
An MRI is a very safe exam. Unlike many other imaging procedures, it uses no harmful radiation. We hope that you find your experience comfortable and relaxing; in fact, some patients fall asleep during the exam!
Except with certain abdominal imaging, you can eat and take your normal medications prior to the exam. You will need to wear a patient gown and leave all metal objects out of the imaging room - including bank and credit cards with magnetic strips on the back. We will provide you with a locker for your clothes and any personal items. As you lie down on the scan table, the technologist will position you so that you are comfortable. Once in place, the table will glide into the scanner. Most studies take about 30 minutes.
An MRI of Reston technologist will be in constant contact with you so you won't ever feel alone. In addition, a friend or relative may go into the scan room with you. The MRI scanner produces a lot of noise, but a stereo is available and you are welcome to bring a tape or CD from home. To see certain parts of the body even better, a contrast agent, which is usually injected into a vein in your arm, may be used with your scan. The agent we use is very safe, and rarely produces any side effects.
When you are finished, one of our radiologists will review your images and send a report to your physician. Occasionally, you may be asked to come back for additional scans before the report can be finalized. The radiologist may want to focus on a slightly different area, or you may have moved while the images were being taken.
Almost anyone can benefit from the advanced imaging techniques offered by an MRI system. However, we advise caution if one of the following conditions applies to you: