MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)



MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) uses radio waves and a magnetic field rather than x-rays to provide remarkably clear and detailed pictures of internal organs and tissues. It requires specialised equipment and expertise and allows evaluation of some body structures that may not be readily evaluated with other imaging methods. 

MRI is most frequently used to image the brain and spine to diagnose conditions such as tumours and vertebral disc protrusions. It is widely used to diagnose sports-related injuries, especially those affecting the knee, shoulder, hip, elbow, and wrist. In addition, MRI of the heart, aorta and other blood vessels is a fast, noninvasive tool for diagnosing coronary artery disease and heart problems. Physicians can examine the size and thickness of the chambers of the heart and determine the extent of damage caused by a heart attack or progressive heart disease. Organs of the abdomen - including the liver, spleen, pancreas, kidneys and abdominal vessels can be examined in exquisite detail, enabling the diagnosis and evaluation of tumors and functional disorders. MRI is growing in popularity as an alternative to traditional mammography in the early diagnosis of breast cancer. Because no radiation exposure is involved, MRI is often the preferred diagnostic tool for examination of the male and female reproductive systems and pelvis.

Frequently asked questions
Q: What can I expect when I go for an  MRI?
A: The patient is placed on a sliding table and a radio antenna device called a surface coil may be positioned around the body part to be examined. Care is taken by the radiographer to ensure that the patient is comfortable. The patient’s body is placed in the middle of the MRI magnet, which means that most of the body is inside the “tunnel”. The radiographer can communicate with the patient whilst in the tunnel and can hear when he/she speaks. Loud noises will occur during the examination, mostly for 3 – 6 minutes at a time. Earplugs, which are available, may help. Under certain circumstances it may be possible to allow a friend or, if a child is being examined, a parent, into the room. The patient has a panic button that will ring an alarm bell if he/she feels too uncomfortable and needs to come out of the scanner. The success of the MRI relies largely on the co-operation of the patient, since any movement will result in a non-diagnostic scan.

Because the strong magnetic field used for MRI will tug on any magnetic metal object implanted in the body, the MRI radiographer will ask whether you have a prosthetic hip, heart pacemaker (or artificial heart valve), implanted port (brand names Port-o-cath, Infusaport, Lifeport), intrauterine device (IUD), any metal plates, pins, screws or surgical staples in your body. In most cases, surgical staples, plates, pins and screws pose no risk during MRI if they have been in place for more than 4-6 weeks. You will be asked if you have ever had a bullet or shrapnel in your body or ever worked with metal. If there is any question of metal fragments, you may be asked to have an x-ray that will detect any such metal objects. Dental fillings usually are not affected by the magnetic field, but they may distort images of the facial area or brain, so the radiologist should be aware of them. Similarly, tattoos and permanent eyeliner may also create a problem. The same is true of dental braces, which may make it hard to "tune" the MRI unit to your body. You will be asked to remove anything that might degrade MRI images, including hairpins, jewellery, eyeglasses, hearing aids and any removable dental work. 


The conventional MRI unit is a closed cylindrical magnet in which the patient must lie totally still for several minutes at a time and consequently may feel claustrophobic. If you are not easily reassured, a sedative may be administered. Roughly 1 in 20 patients will require such medication.

Depending on how many images are needed, the exam will generally take from 15 to 45 minutes, although a very detailed study may take longer. You will be asked not to move during the actual imaging process, but between sequences some movement is allowed. Patients are generally required to remain still for only a few minutes at a time. Some patients will require an injection of a contrast material to enhance the visibility of certain tissues or blood vessels. This is usually performed about two thirds of the way through the examination. 

Q: When will I get the result?
A: The patient may be asked to take the images and report to the referring doctor. Usually you will receive your report and images (on film or CD) the same day. In some cases you might be requested to collect it the next day or we will deliver it to your referring doctor.

Q: Do I need to make an appointment?
A: MRI is highly specialized imaging and currently we have an MRI units at three of our branches. Scheduling is necessary and our staff is dedicated to keep their appointments running on time. Certain preparation might be necessary and you will be informed at the time of making the appointment.

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