Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive, usually painless medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. MR imaging uses a powerful magnetic field, radio waves and a computer to produce detailed pictures of organs, soft tissues, bone and virtually all other internal body structures. The images can then be examined on a computer monitor or printed. MRI does not use ionizing radiation (x-rays). Detailed MR images allow physicians to better evaluate parts of the body and certain diseases that may not be assessed adequately with other imaging methods such as x-ray, ultrasound or computed tomography (also called CT or CAT scanning).

The magnetic field used in MRI will pull on certain metal objects implanted into the body. The technologist will ask whether you have a pacemaker, brain aneurysm clips, artificial limbs or any metal screws or plates. A patient with a pacemaker cannot have an MRI. In most cases, metal used in orthopedic surgery pose no risk during an MRI. You will also be asked if you have ever had a bullet or shrapnel in your body or ever worked with metal. If there is a possibility of metal shrapnel in the eyes, you will be asked to an x-ray prior to the MRI. Clothing should be free of metal. Watches and hearing aids must be removed. You may also be asked to remove hairpins, jewelry, removable dental work, glasses, body piercings or any other metal in the region of the body being scanned.

Contrast called gadolinium may be injected by a small needle into a vein in the patient’s arm during certain exams. The contrast will enhance abnormal tissue in the body, such as scar tissue in the spine after surgery, or tumors. The contrast is different than that used with CT scans. The risk of an allergic reaction and kidney damage is very low. The amount of contrast injected is determined by the patient’s weight. If the patient is over 60 years of age and having a MRI exam with IV Gadolinium contrast, we require lab test to evaluate kidney function within the last 30 days. If you have claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces) or anxiety, you may want to ask your physician for a prescription for a mild sedative.

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