MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a common, non-invasive, and painless diagnostic test. It allows technologists to image the inside of a patient’s body. This helps them detect abnormalities, diagnose conditions, evaluate injuries, and plan treatments.

EmergeOrtho offers patients state-of-the-art diagnostics and imaging, including MRIs. Our MRI imaging specialists provide services accredited by the American College of Radiology, the gold standard in medical imaging.

How Magnetic Resonance Imaging Works

MRIs use a strong magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the body inside. The magnet forces protons in the body’s tissues to align. The application of the radio waves stimulates and disrupts the protons.

As the radio waves are turned off, the MRI machine senses the protons as they realign with the magnetic field. Different tissues produce different signals during this process, which allows the machine to create an accurate picture.

What to Expect When Getting an MRI

If your doctor recommends an MRI, you will get a separate appointment for the scan. When you arrive, you will change into a gown in a private area and be asked to remove any jewelry or anything else with metal.

A technologist will take you to the scanner and position you on the padded table. This table slides into the scanner, which is similar to a large tunnel. The technologist will make sure you are comfortable before proceeding.

Once inside the machine, you must remain as still as possible while still breathing normally. Movement can blur the image, requiring you to go through the procedure again. The equipment does not move during the scan, but the machine makes knocking sounds.

Your technologist will be in another room during the scan, but you can still communicate with them throughout the procedure if necessary. If you feel you might be claustrophobic and anxious inside the scanner, your doctor can prescribe you a medication to relax before the procedure.

Safety of MRI Scans

Because it does not expose patients to high-energy radiation, like X-rays, MRIs are very safe. Adverse events are rare according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, because it uses a magnet, doctors and technologists need to know when patients have certain conditions or implants:

  • A cardiac pacemaker
  • Ear or eye implants
  • Stents or filters
  • Brain aneurysm clips
  • Bone stimulator devices
  • Implanted pumps
  • Artificial joints
  • Heart valve replacements
  • Prosthetics
  • Cochlear implants

They also need to know if you are pregnant, work with metal, or have tattoos or permanent makeup. Your doctor can tell you if any of these prevent you from having an MRI.

Does a CT Scan Use Magnets Too?

Another common imaging scan is often confused with the MRI. A CT, formerly referred to as a CAT scan, is different from an MRI, although it also creates images of the inside of the body. A CT scan does not use magnets, like an MRI. CT uses ionizing radiation to acquire images. It takes multiple images around the body using X-rays. A computer processes the images to create cross-sectional images.

When it comes to an MRI vs CT scan, your doctor will recommend the right test for you. Your doctor can explain why a CT scan might be more beneficial in spite of the risk of a small amount of radiation exposure from the X-rays.

FAQs About MRIs

It helps to understand the basics of MRIs before you go through this procedure. Here are answers to some other common questions patients have:

Why Would a Doctor Order an MRI?

MRIs offer doctors detailed pictures of the inside of the body without the need for an invasive procedure. The main reason to use an MRI is to diagnose conditions and injuries. For instance, a doctor might order an MRI for a patient with signs of a spinal condition or symptoms that might indicate a tumor.

An MRI is also helpful for diagnosing orthopedic conditions of the musculoskeletal system, such as torn ligaments, joint damage, spinal disc abnormalities, and bone tumors.

Does an MRI Show Nerve Damage?

Orthopedic injuries and conditions can cause nerve damage, which your doctor will need to diagnose to treat. Your doctor may use an MRI to supplement other diagnostic tools, such as a neurological examination.

How Long Does an MRI Take?

Depending on the part of the body being imaged, a scan can take between 20 and 90 minutes. The procedure involves a series of imaging sequences. Each sequence is short, but when combined adds up to at least 20 minutes.

Are There Risks or Dangers When Getting an MRI?

MRIs are extremely safe and do not expose patients to any harmful radiation. There are a few risks patients should be aware of:

  • The most obvious risk is harm from metal objects. Because of the strong magnet, anything magnetic in the area can become a harmful projectile. Technologists screen patients carefully before beginning the procedure.
  • Patients can also suffer harm if they have internal metals. This is not always an issue, but you must inform your doctor and Technologist of anything that could be a concern.
  • The knocking sounds the machine makes can be loud and distressing. Your Technologist will offer earplugs or other ear-safety devices.
  • Some patients might be at risk for a panic attack inside the machine due to the enclosed space. If you are worried you might become anxious, inform your doctor or Technologist in advance.

MRI Options at EmergeOrtho

We offer patients different types of MRI units to suit individual needs and preferences. The traditional MRI is available at some locations as a mobile service.

The Wilson office in the Triangle Region has an Open MRI with a larger scanning area. Many patients find this to be more comfortable than the traditional machine. Patients can also benefit from a Wide Bore MRI at the Raleigh, Wake Forest, and Southpoint locations.

While we cannot offer every type of MRI at each of our offices, we can make sure you get a diagnostic appointment as conveniently and quickly as possible. Please contact us to learn more and request an appointment.

Find an MRI Imaging & Diagnostic Center

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