If you experience a brain, muscle, or spine injury or condition, your doctor may recommend an MRI exam, which stands for magnetic resonance imaging. Unlike some other imaging exams, MRI does not use radiation. Instead, it uses radiofrequency waves and powerful magnets to produce images of the soft tissue structures in your body.
An MRI is effective at diagnosing injuries and conditions that affect the:
You will need a written referral from your physician to receive an MRI exam.
MRI to diagnose and monitor health conditions
Your doctor may recommend an MRI scan to diagnose and monitor the treatment of:
- Heart problems
- Liver diseases
- Pelvic pain
Please review risks and limitations (below), and discuss with your doctor, to determine if MRI is right for you.
How MRI scans work
MRI exams use a magnetic field, radiofrequency signals, and a computer to create images of your body. These images can be studied from different angles, which gives your radiologist a clearer picture of your soft tissues than images produced by an X-ray, computed tomography (CT) scan, or ultrasound.
Breast MRIs are performed to obtain highly detailed images of the breast tissue. Your doctor may recommend a breast MRI:
- To supplement a mammogram or breast ultrasound if you are at high risk for breast cancer
- To determine if a silicone breast implant has ruptured
MRI exams are valuable at diagnosing and evaluating medical conditions affecting the body's soft tissue. They are also a painless, noninvasive way to detect heart and blood vessel problems.
MRI risks and limitations
MRIs pose almost no risk when you follow your team's instructions.
Please note the following special cases:
Implanted devices: Implanted metal devices could malfunction or cause issues during the exam, so be sure to alert your physician if you have any of these devices. If you are not sure, you may be asked to undergo an X-ray first to detect these objects.
Allergy: There is also a small risk you may be allergic to the contrast material, though this is uncommon.
Anxiety: If you are anxious, easily confused, or in severe pain, you may find it difficult to lie still enough for the MRI to get accurate images.
Pregnancy: While there is no evidence an MRI would be harmful to a fetus, your physician may consult with a radiologist prior to your MRI exam.
Our highly trained team of radiologists and technologists specialize in MRI exams. We are here to answer your questions and help you have the best possible experience.