Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRI ScannerMagnetic resonance imaging ( MRI), or Nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI), is primarily a medical imaging technique most commonly used in radiology to visualize the structure and function of the body. It provides detailed images of the body in any plane. MRI provides much greater contrast between the different soft tissues of the body than computed tomography (CT) does, making it especially useful in neurological (brain), musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, and oncological ( Cancer) imaging. Unlike CT, it uses no ionizing radiation, but uses a powerful magnetic field to align the nuclear magnetization of (usually) hydrogen atoms in water in the body. Radiofrequency fields are used to systematically alter the alignment of this magnetization, causing the hydrogen nuclei to produce a rotating magnetic field detectable by the scanner. This signal can be manipulated by additional magnetic fields to build up enough information to construct an image of the body.

How MRI Works MRI Scan

When a person lies in a scanner, the hydrogen nuclei (i.e., protons) found in abundance in the human body in water molecules, align with the strong main magnetic field. A second electromagnetic field, which oscillates at radiofrequencies and is perpendicular to the main field, is then pulsed to push a proportion of the protons out of alignment with the main field. These protons then drift back into alignment with the main field, emitting a detectable radiofrequency signal as they do so.

Since protons in different tissues of the body (e.g., fat vs. muscle) realign at different speeds, the different structures of the body can be revealed.

Contrast agents may be injected intravenously to enhance the appearance of blood vessels, tumors or inflammation. Contrast agents may also be directly injected into a joint, in the case of arthrograms, MR images of joints. Unlike CT scanning MRI uses no Ionizing Radiation and is generally a very safe procedure. Patients with some metal implants and cardiac pacemakers are prevented from having an MRI scan due to effects of the strong magnetic field and powerful radiofrequency pulses.

MRI is used to image every part of the body, but is particularly useful in neurological conditions, disorders of the muscles and joints, for evaluating tumors and showing abnormalities in the heart and blood vessels.


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This information was last modified on 16th May 2009, at 03:30

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