An MRI is designed to create a visual of internal, soft tissue structures by creating cross sectional images.
Specifically, MRI is used to differentiate soft tissue from other structures such as tumors. This technique is especially useful in identifying damage to ligaments and/or cartilage.
There can be no metal in the room during an MRI. Because this diagnostic tool uses a magnetic field, all metal objects such as snaps, jewelry, or zippers must be removed. Prior to the procedure, a patient should be asked if they have a metal implant, implanted electronic device, hearing aid, or if they have any metal shrapnel remaining in their body from a previous injury.
A pacemaker can be negatively affected during an MRI. Unless specifically approved for MRI use, pacemakers are contraindicated in this type of imaging, due to the risk of tissue damage and interruption of the pacemaker settings.
The contrast that is used with an MRI does not contain iodine and does not pose a risk to patients with iodine or shellfish allergies.
Patients who are pregnant may safely undergo an MRI, without risk to the fetus.
An MRI can take 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the area that is being scanned. During this time the patient must remain still, as this type of imaging is very sensitive to movement. An open MRI may be used for those patients who have a large abdominal girth or who are severely claustrophobic.
Anti-anxiety medications may be indicated for patients with claustrophobia. Ear plugs can also be used to block out the loud noises produced by the MRI machine.
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