Insight Imaging – Each year more than 30 million Americans undergo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams, making this one of the most common techniques used to help doctors view detailed images of the internal structures of the body. MRI is a valuable tool for non-invasive imaging across medical specialities, used to diagnose, treat, and monitor everything from the brain and spinal cord to tumors and heart function. Although MRI scans are a safe, pain-free, and widely used exam, there are some common misconceptions about the procedure that can lead to apprehension or uncertainty. To help ease any concerns you may have, are four MRI misconceptions explained.
MRIs Cause Claustrophobia
In the past, MRI machines caused some people to experience claustrophobia from being confined to a small cylindrical space for a period of time. However, technology has advanced, allowing for more spacious designs. Open MRI machines address this concern by replacing the traditional tunnel with an open-sided structure that gives patients an unobstructed view, more comfort, and a greater sense of space. Upright MRI technologies that allow patients to stand or sit are also becoming more common and are particularly useful in certain musculoskeletal conditions that benefit from being evaluated in a weight-bearing position.
MRIs are Dangerous
MRIs are a non-invasive and safe imaging technique that provide many diagnostic advantages for healthcare professionals and their patients. Unlike x-rays and CT scans, an MRI does not use ionizing radiation. Instead, it uses magnetic fields which are strong but not harmful to the body. There is also no long-term risk associated with exposure to these magnetic fields. The magnetic fields change rapidly during the procedure and can cause some loud banging or knocking sounds that may be unsettling for some people. However, many facilities provide ear protection for patients and newer machines are much quieter.
MRIs are Only For Brain Imaging
Although MRIs are most commonly associated with brain imaging because of their ability to provide detailed images of the head’s internal structure, the technology is highly versatile and can be used to image many parts of the body. The spine, joints and muscles, abdominal organs like the liver and kidneys, reproductive organs, and the heart can all be evaluated with an MRI. It can also be used as a supplemental tool for certain high-risk conditions, such as breast cancer.
MRIs are the Same as CT Scans
A common misconception is that an MRI provides the same results as a CT scan. However, they are two distinct technologies that produce images of the body for different uses. MRIs provide excellent contrast between soft tissues, making them ideal for viewing the brain, spine, and joints. CT scans are preferred for detecting conditions in the bones, evaluating the lungs, and identifying certain types of injuries. Unlike MRIs, which use magnetic fields and radio waves, CT scans use x-rays that can pose radiation exposure risks with repeated scans. CT scans can also be completed faster, making them more suitable for emergency situations.
Misconceptions about MRIs and other imaging options can cause unnecessary fear and hesitation for people about to undergo one of these procedures. However, with new open machines and imaging techniques that are safe and non-invasive, patients have nothing to worry about if they find themselves needing an MRI. For more information about MRIs and our services at Insight Imaging, contact us today.
Q: Are MRIs safe for pregnant women?
A: Because MRI technology does not use radiation, they are generally considered safe during pregnancy. However, pregnant women are advised to discuss all medical imaging decisions with their healthcare providers.
Q: Can metal plates in the body interfere with an MRI?
A: Certain metal plates may interfere with an MRI or pose a potential safety risk. People with metal plates, pacemakers, and other devices should consult with their healthcare providers prior to undergoing any medical imaging.
Q: Is there anything special I should do to prepare for an MRI?
A: There are several things patients can do to ensure a successful and comfortable experience. Wearing comfortable clothing without metal components, avoiding makeup with metal, and using the restroom before the MRI are all recommended. Patients should also follow doctor’s orders before the appointment, such as fasting, adjustments to medications, etc.