Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
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Specialists in the Field of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Information About the Field of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
What Is MRI?
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, is one of the standards in medical imaging, along with sonography (ultrasound) and computed tomography (CT) .
With the help of MRI, the radiologist can detect and localize various pathological changes in the body. In contrast to X-ray procedures (CT), it does not produce harmful radiation. It is a painless and gentle examination that can produce cross-sectional images of the body horizontally and vertically and at all angles.
In magnetic resonance imaging, a magnetic field is generated by the device. This charges all protons of our body with energy and aligns them in the same way (also in their nuclear direction of rotation = nuclear spin). After a short time, the protons return to the different ground states, releasing the supplied energy. The device can measure this as a magnetic pulse and, with the help of calculations, reproduce it in a grayscale image.
Since different types of tissue have differently rotated protons, this results in differently delineated areas that correspond to the body's interior.
What Are the Applications for Magnetic Resonance Imaging?
Magnetic resonance imaging, like all other imaging techniques, has the purpose of supporting disease research. However, often, the presentation of the symptoms alone in a review with the attending physician and the subsequent physical examination is not sufficient to reliably determine the reason for the ailment. Here, modern imaging can be decisive in finding the right therapy.
The special feature of MRI is its high soft-tissue contrast. This means that even the most minor differences in the body's soft tissue (brain, abdominal organs, spinal cord) can be easily detected. Therefore, tumors and inflammatory changes, muscles, tendons, intervertebral discs, and joints can be depicted particularly well.
Vessels and hemorrhages can also be excellently visualized in MR angiography. The exception is acute cerebral hemorrhage, where CT is the method of choice.
The statutory health insurance does not always cover special MRI examinations:
On the other hand, the radiologist can poorly assess bones or calcifications; here, computed tomography is superior to MRI. On the other hand, due to the absence of carcinogenic radiation, pregnant women and children can also be examined by MRI without hesitation.
What Is the Procedure for an MRI Examination?
In most cases, the attending physician indicates to consult a radiologist. Before entering the room with the MRI, all metal objects must be removed. This includes watches, chains, piercings, glasses, and removable dentures. The duration of the examination is between 15 and 30 minutes.
You will lie on a comfortable couch during the examination, which is automatically pushed into the tubular device. It is important to lie as still as possible during the examination, as even slight movements can lead to blurring that disturbs the image quality immensely. Sometimes, it is necessary to hold your breath for a while on command.
You will be monitored from the adjoining room (by the camera) during the entire examination, so you do not need to be afraid if you have problems or suddenly feel claustrophobic. There is always someone near you.
The MRI that is switched on produces knocking noises during the examination, some of which are very loud. To mitigate this effect, earplugs are usually provided and headphones with music to help you relax.
It is also necessary to administer a contrast agent to increase the image contrast between two similar structures. This can make inflammatory changes or tumors, in particular, more visible. The contrast medium is then injected into the bloodstream via vein access.
Once the examination is complete, the radiologist evaluates the image data and then passes the findings on to your attending physician. This usually takes place in the so-called X-ray meeting, in which the radiologist presents all radiological examinations to the medical team of a specialist department. Therefore, good cooperation between radiologists and ward physicians is essential.
Side Effects and Risks of Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Magnetic resonance imaging is the imaging technique with the best representation of the body's soft tissues. In addition, there is no health risk from ionizing radiation (unlike CT). This also allows pregnant women and children to be examined without hesitation.
Patients with claustrophobia can be given a mild sedative. Some hospitals also have open MRIs specially designed for patients with claustrophobia and obesity.
Because MRI is a highly magnetizing procedure, specific requirements must be met. Unfortunately, metal parts that are firmly seated in the body, such as metal splinters and particular types of heart valves, make this examination too dangerous and therefore not possible. Likewise, MRI can cause malfunctions in pacemakers or defibrillators, so their wearers are excluded from this examination.
Allergies may occur if a contrast medium is used, as with other contrast medium examinations. However, the MRI contrast medium is ten times more tolerable than, for example, a CT contrast medium. In addition, since the contrast medium is excreted through the kidney, damage to the kidney can occur in sporadic cases, especially if there is pre-existing kidney damage.
If you have further questions regarding the possibility or usefulness of an MRI examination or its alternatives in your case, do not hesitate to ask a radiologist you trust.
Reiser, Maximilian; Kuhn, Fritz-Peter; Debus, Jürgen (2011): Radiologie. 3., vollst. überarb. u. erw. Aufl. Stuttgart: Thieme (Duale Reihe).
Kauffmann, Günter Werner; Moser, Ernst (2011): Radiologie. Bildgebende Verfahren, Strahlentherapie, Nuklearmedizin und Strahlenschutz. 4., völlig überarb. Aufl. München: Elsevier, Urban & Fischer.
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