Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

What is MRI?

MRI is an exam that combines the power of electromagnetic energy, radio waves, and computerized image processing to create clear pictures of organs and tissues inside the body. In some cases, MRI gives physicians the ability to see body structures that are not visible in other types of imaging exams. Doctors order MRI exams in a wide range of diagnostic situations, including:

  • Looking for signs of cancer
  • Detecting signs of disease in the heart and circulatory system
  • Confirming or identifying the cause of a stroke
  • Diagnosing injuries or disorders of the muscles, bones, and joints
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  • For some exams, your doctor may order an “MRI with contrast.” This means that you would be injected with or asked to swallow a material to make the part of your body that is being examined more visible in MRI images.
  • If an injected contrast material is needed, an IV may be inserted in your hand or arm prior to test.
  • During the exam, you will lie down on a table that slides into the opening, or “bore,” of the imaging unit. Your technologist will help you get into the right position for the area of the body to be examined, and help you get as comfortable as possible.
  • While the scanner is operating, it is important to lie still. MRI scans usually require more than one “sequence” of images to be taken. Between sequences, your technologist will let you know when you are able to move slightly. Each sequence can take from approximately 2–15 minutes.
  • The technologist will need to leave the room briefly to start the imaging sequences, but will remain in visual and verbal communication with you throughout the exam.
  • The entire exam should last approximately 15–45 minutes.

Learn more

Visit the MRI page on RadiologyInfo for more information about MRI, including details on specific diagnostic purposes and MRI scans of different parts of the body.