One of the newest and most accurate forms of radiology is the MRI Scan, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging.
In fact, the MRI scanner is one of the most important pieces of a radiologist’s equipment – it is hugely useful and informative for all kinds of diagnostic medicine.
An MRI scanner looks like a long horizontal metal tube. A narrow table can be slid inside the scanner and this is what the patient must lie on if they are to have an MRI scan.
When going for an MRI Scan, the first thing to understand is that our bodies are made up mostly of water molecules (that’s two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen). The machine uses the distinctive behavior of hydrogen atoms while within a magnetic field to build up a 2D or 3D image of the body part it’s scanning.
Doctors use the MRI scan for all sorts of diagnostic medicine, from detecting injuries such as spinal damage, to spotting tumors, to finding out whether medical treatment, such as chemotherapy, has been successful.
An MRI scan is painless and harmless.
However, some patients will not enjoy the experience because it involves lying very still in an enclosed space. Furthermore, the machine can be very noisy due to the magnets vibrating inside the tube as they are switched off and on.
Patients do not need to take many steps to prepare themselves for an MRI scan. Unlike many other medical procedures, you’re perfectly safe to take medication, as well as eat and drink whatever you like before a scan. If you, or someone you know, is having an MRI scan, here are the top five things you can do to prepare:
- Remove metallic items – due to the strength of the primary magnet in an MRI scanner, it is very important to remove all metallic items from your person, such as jewelry. You will be scanned for metal implants, including pacemakers, plates and metal fillings. However, for safety’s sake, it’s always worth making a note of anything metallic on or within your person that you’re aware of to your doctor.
- Wear comfortable clothes – when you go for your scan, it’s very important to wear loose fitting clothing that allows you to lie comfortably on the table. MRI scans can take anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours, depending on the body parts that need imaging. You’ll need to lie motionless for the whole scan, otherwise the pictures will be blurry and might need to be recaptured. If your clothes have metal components, such as zippers or poppers, you might be asked to change into a hospital gown.
- Avoid wearing make up – make up sometimes contains metal filaments. There’s a slim chance that these could interfere with the MRI scanner and lower the quality of the images it creates. Rather than risk it, we suggest you prepare for your scan by removing all make up prior to the procedure.
- Relax – the hollow tube inside the MRI scanner is not very wide and some people find it difficult to relax within confined spaces such as these. Added to this, the noisy clicking of the magnets can antagonise this feeling of anxiety, making it more likely that you’ll fidget and ruin the scan. Before you’re placed in the scanner, take several deep breaths and try closing your eyes. If you think you’re really going to struggle to stay relaxed and motionless, doctors are usually happy to prescribe a lightweight muscle relaxant so try asking their advice.
- Choose some music – as described above, MRI scanners are usually very noisy. This is down to the vibrations of the magnets in the machine, which are caused by changes in magnetic field. Depending on the type of scanner you’re inside, the volume of this noise varies. However loud, it’s standard practice for patients to be offered headphones and a choice of music while they’re being scanned. We recommend you choose something calming rather than something you’ll be tempted to dance along to!
The is a guest post from Mark who writes on behalf of Balloon Sinuplasty. Visit the Balloon Sinuplasty site to find out more about chronic sinusitis treatment and other diagnostic tools like the MRI Scan.