Chances are, you or someone you know has needed an MRI scan at some point. We’ve at least all heard of an MRI and might imagine ourselves getting in to that big white tube! But what exactly are we getting ourselves in to? With the help of Paula Bracken, chief radiologic technologist at Lexington Diagnostic Center & Open MRI, let’s explore what you should know, consider, and expect when you need an MRI.
What is an MRI?
As Paula explains, “MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, is a non-invasive scan that uses a large magnet, pulses of radiofrequency waves, and a computer to create detailed, 2D and 3-D images of organs and structures within your body”. Physicians often use MRI imaging to diagnose conditions that may not be adequately assessed using other imaging methods such as X-ray, ultrasound or CT scan.
An MRI is often used to:
• Examine the joints, brain, spine, nerves, abdominal organs, breasts, reproductive organs and other soft tissues
• Assess blood vessels for clots and areas of narrowing
• Detect tumors and diagnose many forms of cancer
• Evaluate infections
• Assess injuries to bones, joints and muscles
• Achieve more detailed images than other imaging modalities
MRIs are often preferred over X-rays and CT scans because they don’t emit potentially harmful radiation. Here’s how it works:
1. The MRI scanner is a very strong magnet that is always turned on.
2. Since the body is made up of mostly water, hydrogen protons in the water are utilized to create an image.
3. An antenna is placed around the area of your body to be scanned.
4. You are moved into the magnetic field of the machine and the hydrogen protons go from spinning randomly to aligning with the magnetic field.
5. Radiofrequency pulses are introduced to move the protons into different positions and the antenna “listens” to the echoes from the protons as they relax.
6. The information is sent to a computer that creates the image.
Where to have your MRI
Many patients “go with the flow” and have their scan performed at the hospital, not realizing they have options for comfort, convenience, and cost-savings. Paula says she’s proud to provide superior care and quality at LDC. “We offer an MRI for every need, and we take care of our patients at a fair price that they’ll find is much less expensive than at other facilities,” says Paula.
An MRI for every need
If even just the thought of that big white tube makes you cringe with claustrophobia, rest assured there’s an option for you. You can even have a loved one stay close by for support. That option is also great for little patients who want a parent close by. Lexington Diagnostic Center utilizes modern equipment and procedures to produce the best images possible while ensuring the patient’s comfort. There are three different MRI machine options to accommodate various patient needs and preferences.
In some cases, sedation may be required or requested for the patient. There is no charge for sedation at LDC. You will need to arrange for a driver to take you home.
What to expect and how to prepare:
Talk to your doctor’s referring coordinator or scheduler when your scan is ordered and they can set up your appointment with Lexington Diagnostic Center. LDC will receive your doctor’s orders and will call you to confirm your appointment. Be sure to let LDC know ahead of time if you’ve had a scan of the same area previously at another location so that images can be compared. Paula shares that LDC takes pride in making sure the entire process is easy and convenient for the patient. She says, “We make sure patients have their appointment in a timely manner, without hassle, and are made as comfortable as possible while receiving superior image quality.”
MRI procedures are performed on an outpatient basis. Eat, drink and take your medications as usual unless instructed otherwise. If you are scheduled for an abdominal MRI, you might be asked to refrain from eating or drinking for two hours prior to your appointment.
For the scan, you’ll be asked to change into a hospital gown and remove any metal items including:
• Hearing aids
The MRI machine is a large, tube-shaped machine that the patient enters while lying comfortably on an exam table. The machine can get loud, so earplugs and headphones are available. The radiology technologist will be close by, keeping you informed and making sure you’re comfortable. You can stop the exam any time to ask questions or express concerns.
Most MRI scans take about 30 minutes to perform for each study. Afterward, the pictures will be reviewed by the radiologist and a report will be sent to your doctor.
Why choose Lexington Diagnostic Center for your MRI?
They are committed to providing the most convenient high-quality MRI imaging services for patients and their physicians. LDC offers:
• Ease of scheduling with typically same-week appointments
• Board Certified Musculoskeletal Fellowship Trained Radiologists to interpret your results
• Highly trained technologists to ensure your comfort and safety
• CD of images for each patient to have and share with their healthcare provider
• An integrated electronic medical records system that provides your referring physician easy access to your images
• Evening and Saturday appointment times
• Front door parking