Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Magnetic Resonance Imaging

What is Magnetic Resonance Imaging?

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Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is a non-invasive study using strong magnetic and radio waves (no radiation) to provide clear and detailed diagnostic images of internal body organs and tissues. MRI allows for evaluation of some body structures that may not be as visible with other diagnostic imaging methods. Our Avon, Enfield and Glastonbury MRI services are commonly ordered for:

  • Sports related injuries, especially of the knee, shoulder, ankle, hip or elbow
  • Highly accurate evaluation of soft tissue structures (tendons and ligaments)
  • Spinal problems, including disc herniation, spinal stenosis and spinal tumors
  • Non-invasive study of the heart, aorta, coronary arteries and blood vessels
  • Identifying the size and thickness of the chambers of the heart and determining the extent of damage caused by a heart attack or heart disease
  • Highly detailed examination of the organs of the chest and abdomen (liver, lungs, kidney and other abdominal organs) for tumors and functional disorders
  • Because there’s no radiation, MRI is becoming the preferred diagnostic tool when examining the male and female reproductive systems, the pelvis, hips, and bladder

At Radiology Associates of Hartford, P.C., we have the most open of any closed MRI unit. This is ideal for all patients, including claustrophobic, elderly and pediatric patients. Referring specialists with high standards prefer the High Field Closed MRI. Please consult with your specialist when an MRI is recommended.

How safe is MRI?

MRI is quite safe in the majority of patients. Patients with metal implants in the body need to alert the MRI staff prior to undergoing an MRI. Some metal implants are compatible with MRI, including most orthopedic implants. Always check with your doctor to ensure that your implant is safe for MRI.

It is very important to tell our Connecticut MRI staff if you have any of the following:

  • Pacemaker
  • Artificial heart valve
  • Metallic eye implants
  • Implanted Neurostimulators
  • Aneurysm clips in the brain
  • Think you may be pregnant
  • Cochlear (inner-ear) implants
  • History of claustrophobia (fear of small spaces)

Concerned about claustrophobia?

Keep in mind that the area on which you are lying of a closed MRI is not enclosed at any time. If you look above, you can clearly see out one end. If you look down towards your feet, you will easily see out the other end. More than likely the lower part of your body is out of the scanner altogether.

However, the scanner can still feel somewhat confining to some patients. If you are very nervous, there are alternatives available to help you relax:

  • Bring a family member or friend into the scanning room with you. Many people feel comforted just knowing someone else is right there at their side. Often times a person battling claustrophobia is able to comfortably complete the study and get the quality diagnosis they need without the assistance of pre-medication.
  • Some patients prefer a mild sedative prior to their study. This is something that needs to be arranged ahead of time. Please consult with your referring physician. The medication should be given approximately one hour prior to your study in order for it to be effective at the time of the scan. If you are pre-medicated, you will need someone to drive you home.
  • Many patients find it relaxing to simply have a cool washcloth over their forehead or eyes during the procedure. Thus, they can lie back and relax. Believe it or not, some people even fall asleep due to the repetitive hypnotic knocking noise.

How should I prepare for an MRI?

Guidelines about eating and drinking before an MRI exam vary with the specific exam. Unless you are told otherwise, you may follow your regular daily routine and take medications as usual.

  • Before the exam: You will be asked to empty your pockets and remove any metallic jewelry, eyeglasses, watches, piercings, hair pins, hearing aids, wigs and dentures. You will be asked to change into a hospital gown to ensure no metal zippers, snaps or hooks interfere with the exam. Your personal belongings will be locked in a secure area during testing.
  • Establish patient comfort: The technologist will accompany you to the scanning room and help you get situated on the table. During the scan, you will lie on your back on the padded table with a cushion under your knees. The cushion helps takes the pressure off your lower back and allows you to be more comfortable. You will also be offered earplugs or earphones during the scan.
  • Accurate positioning: The table lifts up and slides into a flared, tube-like cylinder, wider on both ends. It NEVER closes. It is open the entire time on both ends. There is a fan and a light inside. You typically go in head first with your head near one opening. If you look above you can clearly see out one end and if you look down towards your feet, you will easily see out the other end. More than likely the lower part of your body is out of the scanner altogether. The technologist will be able to see you throughout the entire scan and will talk with you over the headphone/intercom system.
  • Remain still: It is important that you are able to lie still for a few minutes at a time for each set of pictures (there are usually four or five sets). Basically, when you hear the knocking noise, remain as still as possible so the technologist can get very clear images for the radiologist to read. Motion will blur the images. The technologist will tell you before they begin each set of pictures.
  • Noise during the exam: During the picture taking, you will hear a repetitive knocking noise. Nothing moves or touches you and you will not feel any discomfort – it’s just noisy. The earplugs or earphones will help muffle this sound.
  • Constant communication: The technologist will talk to you over the headset/intercom and let you know when they start each session and how long each will last. Ask the technician to adjust the volume, if needed.
  • Use of Contrast: Depending on the part of the body being examined, contrast material may be used to enhance the visibility of certain tissues or blood vessels. The contrast material is injected about two-thirds of the way through the exam. A small needle is placed in your arm or hand vein and a saline-solution IV drip will run through the intravenous line to prevent clotting.
  • Side effects: Some patients might experience side effects from the contrast material, including nausea and local pain. Very rarely, patients are allergic to the contrast material and experience hives and itchy eyes. Please notify your physician immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.
  • After the exam: After the scan, you will be escorted back to the changing area and asked to stop at the front desk prior to leaving.
  • If you have not been sedated, no recovery period is necessary. You may resume your usual activities and normal diet immediately after the exam.
  • If you were given a sedative, you should have a driver take you home and you may want to rest for several hours until the effects of the sedative wear off.

How do I obtain results?

After your MRI exam is completed, we will be happy to answer any questions you have regarding follow-up care with your physician, and getting the results of your scan.

Although our staff cannot give you immediate results, some Radiology Associates of Hartford physicians arrange for you to come directly to their office following the MRI scan. If so, our trained specialists can arrange for you to take your images to your doctor’s office in time for your appointment. Your physician will discuss the results with you and may diagnose, recommend other tests, or begin treatment based on the MRI report.

Please contact Radiology Associates of Hartford, P.C., to schedule your MRI. We serve patients in Glastonbury, Enfield, Avon and surrounding areas in Connecticut.

For more information on this topic, please visit www.Radiologyinfo.org