What Is An MRI Scan?

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is a diagnostic imaging test that allows health care professionals to see the different organs and structures inside of an individual’s body. In most cases, clear and detailed images can be obtained that reflect the structures inside of the body. A magnetic resonance imaging scan does not cause a patient pain and is non-invasive. An individual who undergoes an MRI scan will need to stay still during the scan and may be asked to perform certain breathing patterns. MRI scans usually take between fifteen minutes up to an hour and a half to complete. Once the scan is complete, the images are sent to a doctor who specializes in the interpretation of medical images or a radiologist. This radiologist will write up and sign a report that is sent to the physician who ordered the scan.

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How The Scan Works


The three main components that allow an MRI machine to produce images of the organs and structures inside of an individual’s body are radio waves, a large magnet, and a computer. A patient having an MRI scan lays still on a table that slides into a large, cylinder-shaped machine that contains considerable-sized magnets within it. When a patient is moved inside of the MRI machine, the water molecules in their body are temporarily realigned by the magnetic field created by the magnets. Radio waves are then utilized to induce faint signals from the realigned water atoms, which is what also produces the MRI images. The images are taken in a cross-sectional manner, similar to the slices that make up a loaf of bread. The computer in the MRI machine compiles all of these cross-sectional MRI images into the detailed images doctors view. Three-dimensional images of the structures and organs inside of an individual’s body can also be produced by the computer out of the cross-sectional images.

Keep reading to learn about when MRI scans are used next.